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Ableism (//; also known as ablism, disablism (Brit. English), anapirophobia, anapirism, and disability discrimination) is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. On this basis, people are assigned or denied certain perceived abilities, skills, or character orientations.
There are stereotypes associated with various disabilities. These stereotypes in turn serve as a justification for ableist practices and reinforce discriminatory attitudes and behaviors toward people who are disabled. Labeling affects people when it limits their options for action or changes their identity.
In ableist societies, people with disabilities are viewed as less valuable, or even less than human. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century could be considered an example of widespread ableism. The mass murder of disabled in Nazi Germany's Aktion T4 could be an extreme example of ableism.
Originated from -able (in disable, disabled) and plus -ism; first known use in 1985-1990.
Hitler signed the secret euthanasia program decree, Aktion T4, in 1939 that allowed the killing of selected patients with chronic neurological, psychiatric disorders. This program took the lives of about 70,000 men, women and children with disabilities; this program was officially halted by Hitler in 1941 under public pressure but was continued unofficially out of the public eye, taking an additional 200,000 until the fall of Hitler's reign in 1945.
In the UK, disability discrimination became unlawful as a result of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. These were later repealed, but the substantive law is replicated in the Equality Act 2010. Under the Equality Act 2010 there are several types of discrimination that are prohibited. These are direct discrimination (s.13(1) Equality Act 2010), indirect discrimination (s.6 and s.19 Equality Act 2010, harassment (s.26 Equality Act 2010), victimisation (s.27(2) Equality Act 2010), discrimination arising from disability (s.15(1) Equality Act 2010 and failure to make reasonable adjustments (s.20 Equality Act 2010).
The legal definition of disability used in the law is:
"A person (P) has a disability if P has a physical or mental impairment, and the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities".(Section 6(1), Equality Act 2010)
Some conditions (such as blindness, AIDS and cancer) are included; others (such as drug and alcohol addictions) are excluded.
Before the 1800s, perspective of disability was often in a religious lens. Individuals with disability were seen as evil or possessed by the devil. Much like many minority groups, disabled Americans were often segregated and denied certain rights for a majority of American history. In the 1800s shift from a religious view to a more scientific view took place and caused more individuals with disabilities to be examined. Public stigma began to change after World War II when many Americans returned home with disabilities and physical handicaps. In the 1960s, following the civil rights movement in America, the world began the disabled rights movement. The movement was intended to give all individuals with disabilities equal rights and opportunities. Until the 1970s, ableism in the United States was often codified into law. For example, in many jurisdictions, so-called "ugly laws" barred people from appearing in public if they had diseases or disfigurements that were considered unsightly.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 and other sections of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 enacted into law certain civil penalties for failing to make public places comply with access codes known as the ADA Access Guidelines (ADAAG). These laws prohibit direct discrimination against disabled people in government programs, employment, public transit and public accommodations like stores and restaurants.
Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act
The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act was passed to promote the fundamental right to vote by improving access for handicapped and elderly individuals to registration facilities and polling places for Federal elections by requiring access to polling places used in Federal elections and available registration and voting aids, such as instructions in large type
Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
The federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of disability and requires that newly constructed multi-family housing meet certain access guidelines while requiring landlords to allow disabled persons to modify existing dwellings for accessibility.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was passed in on July 26, 1990 by the George H. W. Bush administration and amended on January 1, 2009. The act gave individuals with disabilities civil rights protections.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a four-part (A-D) piece of American legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that is tailored to their individual needs. IDEA was previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) from 1975 to 1990. In 1990, the United States Congress reauthorized EHA and changed the title to IDEA (Public Law No. 94-142). Overall, the goal of IDEA is to provide children with disabilities the same opportunity for education as those students who do not have a disability.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was put in place to prohibit private employers, state and local government, employment agencies and labor unions from discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in job applications, when hiring, firing, advancement in workplace, compensation, training, and on other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, also known as the EEOC also plays a part in fighting against ableism by being responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Despite legislation to reduce disability discrimination, roughly 13.3 million Americans with disabilities report difficulty finding a job.
Ableism often makes the world unwelcoming, and inaccessible to people with disabilities—especially in schools. An ableist would assert that children with disabilities need to assimilate to normative culture. For example, a disabled student needs to read text instead of listening to a tape recording of the text. In the past schools focused too much on fixing the disability, but due to progressive reforms, school’s goals are centered on minimizing the impact of a student’s disability, and giving support, skills, and opportunities to live a full life. Moreover, schools must maximize access to the school community as whole. In 2004, Congress made into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which states that free and appropriate education is eligible to children with disabilities with insurance of necessary services. Congress later amended the law, in 2015, to include the Every Student Succeeds Act, which guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities full participation in society, and the tools for overall independent success.
Disabilities are not only misrepresented in the media but often underepresented as well. These common ways of framing disability are heavily criticized for being dehumanizing and failing to place importance on the perspectives of persons with disabilities. While roughly 20 percent of the population is disabled, only 2 percent of characters played in television and film have a disability. 95 percent of the time, disabled characters are played by actors and actresses who are not disabled. The Ruderman Family Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation established in 2002 in Boston, USA, managed by the Ruderman family. The foundation operates in America and in Israel in two main areas: inclusion of people with disabilities in society and strengthening the relationship between Israel and the American Jewish community, while promoting strategic philanthropy and expanding circles of giving and involvement. The foundation has released a series of papers discussing various disability studies including disability in the media.
One common form of media depiction of disability is to portray villains with a mental or physical disability. Lindsey Row-Heyveld notes, for instance, “that villainous pirates are scraggly, wizened, and inevitably kitted out with a peg leg, eye patch, or hook hand whereas heroic pirates look like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.” The disability of the villain is meant to separate them from the average viewer and dehumanize the antagonist. As a result, stigma forms surrounding the disability and the individuals that live with it.
Inspiration porn is the use of people with disabilities as a form of inspiration when performing ordinary tasks. Criticisms of inspiration porn say that it distances people with disabilities from abled bodied individuals and portrays disability as an obstacle to overcome or rehab.
Sports are often an area of society in which ableism is evident. In sports media, athletes with disabilities are often portrayed to be inferior. When athletes with disabilities are discussed in the media, there is often an emphasis on rehabilitation and the road to recovery, which is inherently a negative view on the disability. Oscar Pistorius is a South African runner who competed in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Paralympics and the 2012 Olympic games in London. Oscar was the first double amputee athlete to compete in the Olympic games. While media coverage focused on inspiration and competition during his time in the Paralympic games, it shifted to questioning whether his prosthetic legs gave him an advantage while competing in the Olympic games.
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- Alliance for Technology Access
- Center for Disability Law and Policy
- Ragged Edge Online
- "The Social Movement Left Out" - Z Magazine article by Marta Russell
- Nonprofit Research Collection on Disability & Employment Published on IssueLab
- Disability Discrimination Information and News
- Guide to UK disability discrimination law
- Disability Discrimination in the UK
- Handicapism - Disabling Images or Images Disabling? By Justice Jitendra N. Bhatt† in: The Practical Lawyer