ABLEISM – defined as discrimination in favour of so called typically abled people , it is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and inferior to the non-disabled
My disability bullshit meter is today at Defcon One.
Oh what a week it has been. Actress Gal Gadot started it off with a well meaning but awful tribute to Stephen Hawking by tweeting the following.
This was followed up by many tweets by the disability community explaining to Gadot that her words were unacceptable.
This in turn brought out the self-righteous and sanctimonious on twitter who defended Gadot but also by suggestion Ableism is simply ones self being sensitive and/or being too politically correct
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Some well known advocate/activists had to shut down their feed for the day due to the outrageous push back on social media.
Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 21, a motor neuron disease that eventually required him to use a wheelchair . Several disability rights activists used twitter and other forms of social media to explain why Gadot’s comments were so problematic noting that disabilities shouldn’t be viewed as life inhibiting circumstances that people will be freed of upon death.
However, as the days went on it got worse, with comments on social media from Hollywood, star athletes and other celebrities posting comments such as “trapped in his body but his mind was free”, “his genius almost normalizes his disability”, “a genius despite his disability” .
Even main stream media took the bait and acted poorly with one British tabloid having perhaps the most shocking front page headline of all managing to get every piece of ableism possible into one headline.
To be clear, Dr. Hawking’s wheelchair provided him with freedom. The chair WAS his freedom. His disability was, of course, part of who he was but it did not define him.
Millions of wheelchair users around the world saw these headlines and comments on social media and, without question, their hearts sank as they saw and felt, once again, that they are relegated to a sub-section of humankind, not worthy and a crushing assault on their confidence and self worth. Imagine being told that the only way they could be free was to die.
If you don’t get it, you’re privileged. If anyone in the non-disabled community disagrees with ableism, they are privileged.
People with disabilities are not “confined” to wheelchairs, they are not “bound” to wheelchairs, they just happen to have a disability that requires them to be a wheelchair user. The wheelchair is totally liberating.
For the same reason I am not hearing impaired, I am deaf. The only time I am impaired is after seven beers.
Ableism, now you know.
Godspeed Dr. Hawking and let’s hope there isn’t only a stairway to heaven.
Be DIRECT, be DARING, be BOLD.