Internalized Ableism

Internalized Ableism is something all disabled people struggle with.

What is Internalized Ableism? Well to understand Internalized Ableism first you need to understand ableism and why it is bad.

Ableism at it’s core is the belief that abled people are better than disabled people and that to be disabled is undoubtedly wrong in some way. Why this is bad should be self explanatory, but it case it’s not, besides not being true it leaves disabled people feeling like we can’t catch up to abled people. We’ll never be good enough no matter what we do.

Disabled is not a bad word. It means unable to do something. Every single person on this planet is unable to do at least one thing. Whether it’s walk or hear or reach the top shelf there’s at least one thing every single person needs help with and it’s different for everyone. Needing a little extra help isn’t a negative thing, whether it’s in the form of a wheelchair or walker or even a step stool. We all need a little help sometimes and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Ableism culture is all around us. It’s in the way we as disabled people act as if it’s no big deal to not be included in something. It’s in the way counters are designed to be above a wheelchair user’s head. It’s in the way stairs are everywhere. It’s in the way disabled people have to go out of our way to ask for help, if something is accessible etc. because just assuming something will be accessible can lead to very dangerous situations.

The world is set up for abled people. Disabled people are always treated as something extra, some inconvenience that abled people have to deal with. That is ableism.

Disabled children are taught from the day of their birth what an inconvenience their existence is. They hear the people around them discussing all of the extra things having them requires. A lot of parents don’t understand how much their children are listening to and absorbing. They hear what you say and what you don’t say, that life would be easier without them. These are the messages disabled kids are hearing, I know because I was one. I fought every single day to not internalize those words. Some days I can ignore them, some days I can’t.

A lot of disabled people who became disabled later in life carry their ableism from when they were abled as well. I see it often in those with chronic illnesses that are progressive. They tend to beat themselves up over needing help with things they didn’t need help with in the past.

Why is this bad? Because there’s an entire group of people (20% of the population, roughly) that has been taught to hate themselves for being different. Disability is the only minority that can happen to anyone at any time. Disability does not distinguish between race, class or gender; all it takes is one second for someone’s life to entirely change.

It’s a major problem in our society, but it’s a fight a lot of disabled people, myself included, have taken on. We fight the stigmas daily both with abled people and disabled people. We lift each other up when we see someone hating on themselves and we confront it when we see an abled person spreading stereotypes. With the internet being so popular, we have become a tight knit group of people from all different walks of life. But it is a struggle we shouldn’t have to face.

If things like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were enforced, if employers didn’t view disability as something impossible to deal with and if society as a whole didn’t treat us like we’re difficult, life would be so much easier on us as well as the abled people.

If the standard was to make things accessible for everyone, imagine how much easier it would be for someone who  became disabled or a child was born with a disability. Whether it was a car accident or a new diagnosis, if things were already in place to handle disabilities, the transition would be smooth. But instead, things are built to exclude disability to the degree that when someone suddenly becomes disabled or a child is born with a disability an entire life shift must happen, often times a very expensive one, just to make life easier on the newly disabled person and the people around them.

Something we call the “crip tax” is when something goes on sale for 2x or more what the same thing would cost if it wasn’t labeled for disabled people. A quick search on Twitter for #criptax can give you plenty of examples of this.

Another form of ableism in our society is things like pre-cut fruits and vegetables being treated as convenience items. When the conversations about eliminating plastics talk about these items and straws, what they’re really saying is “let’s kill disabled people”.

Disagree? Why? There is a large portion of disabled people who would not be able to eat fresh food or drink anything at all without these items. Nevermind that pre-cut fresh food falls into the fore mentioned “criptax” because it costs way more than whole fresh items and is in fact an accessibility feature. Why can’t disabled people have people cut their food for them? Not everyone has friends and/or family that are willing to or that live within close enough distance to just come over and do it. Hired help isn’t a possibility on disability income and most insurances would rather put someone in a nursing facility than pay someone to help them with daily tasks. Also DISABLED PEOPLE SHOULDN’T HAVE TO RELY ON ABLEDS TO LIVE THEIR LIVES. We should be able to live as independently as possible. Some of us need more help than others, and that’s okay, but we should be allowed to do things without help when possible.

I agree 500% the environment is essential and we need to find ways to stop killing it, but killing disabled people isn’t the answer. I’m not getting into the straw debate again because if you’re reading this there are literally THOUSANDS of other posts written by disabled people about why non-plastic options won’t work. Until there’s a safe, allergy free option, plastic is our best bet. If you give a damn, you can research it yourself. Frankly, I’m tired of repeating what has been said a million different ways to people who couldn’t care less about killing off 20% of the population or 1 in every 5 people to put it in perspective.

Yeah fighting ableism is exhausting and it makes me angry, because it’s something I’ve been fighting since before I even understood what it was and by this point we should be angry about it. I’m already fighting my body to stay alive, I shouldn’t have to fight humanity to prove I’m worthy of life too.


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