February 24, 2018

OMG: You’re Such an Ableist!


Said by a builder, “That ADA stuff isn’t good for anything anyway; no body uses it.” Said by coach, “Well, if you can’t stand for long periods, maybe you shouldn’t be a lab technician.” Said by a teacher, “Why should I give you extra time to take the test!” These are the cries of an ableist.

I would imagine that ableist comments come from a place of ignorance, and perhaps of resentment. It might appear as if special accommodations are given to others when one perhaps doesn’t feel as if their own needs were recognized, much less handled responsibly.

Universal design can diminish this us/them (able/disabled) paradigm and arrive at a new collective “we.” The more universal design is applied, the more disability “disappears” and the more the playing field is level. A person living with a disability then has what they need to function as well as other members of society without the need for specialized adaptations; they can enter by the same front door. Design is then said to be inclusive and no longer marginalizes. The disability itself remains a condition to manage, however, one then doesn’t have the added barriers to personal success and will less frequently encounter the upset of an ableist who thinks life isn’t fair.