Historical perspective of ableism

Running Head: Ableism

Historical perspective of Ableism




Course Title


Ableism can be defined as a form of social prejudice or discrimination against disabled people. It may also be referred to as physicalism, disability discrimination, disability oppression and handicapism. Similarly, the many assumptions underlying the medical archetype of disability amongst many clinicians, abled societal world-view is that the norm of the society is for able-bodied people, and that disabled people must either struggle to become that norm or should distance themselves from the able-bodied individuals (Campbell, 2009). We must overcome disability because it is inherently a bad thing. The ableist worldview suggests disability as an error, a failing, or a mistake, rather than a simple result of human diversity, akin to race, gender, sexual orientation or physical.

This paper will discuss the historical perspective of ableism of ableism, the negative and positive factors related to ableism and look at the political, economic and social aspects that affect ableism. It will also take a look at ableism in our schools and finally the methods recommended to eliminate ableism for good.

Before the 1800’s it was believed that disabled people were being punished for a prior sin and evil or were possessed by the devil. Due to these beliefs, many disabled individuals were neglected and left to die. There were also incidences where disabled people were subjected to torture and death.

During the 1800’s there was a change in thought that was the product of developments in the field of science which resulted in the shift from religious to scientific perspective. Due to this, disabled people were hidden away in family homesteads, schools for the blind or deaf, and mental institutions. The eugenics movement that started in the 1800’s, saw the sterilization people with disabilities. For those that were out in the open, they were displayed in freak shows and worked in circuses as travelling performers.

With the return of World War 1 veterans there was a drive for vocational programs and rehabilitation. In the 1960’s, the civil rights movement also served to convey attention to the rights of disabled people. There was a call for inclusion of children with disabilities in the classroom and deinstitutionalization. As a result of the civil rights movement many laws have been signed from previous acts which have opened up society to all people. The act that showcased the largest impact was the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. This act mandated that all children be educated in an education environment that was least restrictive.

Research shows that 54 million American citizens, almost 20 percent of the inhabitants are disabled people. They are the largest sidelined minority group in the United States, and the only one that is open to anyone as one can join at any point of their lives. They are also the poorest minority group as their unemployment rate is almost 70 percent. The connotative definition of the degrading term “handicapped” is so socially in-built in the American mentality that Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t see it fit to consider employment of people with disabilities, and doesn’t include them in unemployment figures. The first self-propelled manual wheelchair took a considerable amount of years to be developed, almost all houses, including public funded taxes, are still built with staircases, high environmental controls, and narrow doors (Rocco, 2011). Many cities, including Columbus, GA, have failed to install curb ramps and maintain sidewalks, transferring wheelchair users to the streets where they are never visible too traffic as they are too short. Many of them cannot even rarely visit our friends and family, next door neighbor, much less attend functions held where the sidewalks are unramped and broken.

In education, children with special needs and disabilities are often faced with many challenges in building interpersonal relationships at school. Being a parent to a special needs child, it is important to familiarize yourself with ableism which is a common stereotyping and know how it affects your child.

Ableism is used to describe the preconceived notion that many teachers, school officials and students carry with regard to disabled children. Whether your child lives with a physical or intellectual disability, the category associated with ableism often leads to negative consequences. It is important to understand the ableism concept and to familiarize with identifying the issues when your child maybe a victim of the stereotyping that comes with it.

People affected by ableism may feel inadequate or equal to other people. When an educational has ableism stereotypes, there tends to be a general attitude that individuals with disabilities are considered inferior to the able-bodied population of the school. Believing one is better off without having a disability of any kind, schools may refuse to convey the ableism message but, by the environments nature, ableism may be characteristic in the preparations.

Some schools have chosen to incorporate people with disabilities and the general population. While this arrangement may seem as a way to instigate the risk for development ableism within the population body of the student, if the education institution is not properly prepared for handling a variety of disabilities, this will only aid to promote the logic of ableism among students. Realizing this, schools have introduced special education classes which uniquely care for children with disabilities, thus, reducing the stereotyping that comes with ableism. A general culture of ableism can be present in schools when children experience inferiority complex. Even with temporary disabled children, ableism posts some degree of emotional discord and health complications, can lead to extended process of healing.

Schools should explain how they intend to manage ableism stereotyping behaviors. In a perfect setting, it is recommended to incorporate the disabled child into the general population and provide as many support services as needed to promote assimilation and to educate the student population. However, even the best of conditions, ableism may not be managed properly and, eventually, your child may need an education setting that is special.

By living on an ableist society, people with disabilities face daily threats to the enjoyment of values like self-determination, health collaboration, social justice and diversity, and being human is seen as a diminished state. Ableism is a system of processes, practices and beliefs that creates a particular kind of body and self that is anticipated as the perfect, species typical and thus fully human and essential (Campbell, 2009).

Therefore, ableness creation, a body that is perfect, takes disability to a space of departure from being human, leading to a discrimination favoring the able-bodied individuals. Relations of ableists produce a normative person and then this notion is strengthened as a constitutional divide amid non-disabled and disabled. Ableism uses a two divided strategy: the emulation by disabled people of ableist norms and the distancing of disabled people from each other, which drives them to acceptation of their position socially as a natural result of their lack of worth and hence cannot control. Due to that, it can be portrayed as the erasing of human variety by establishing an internalization of the laws way, politics and science establishes understandings of what is human, which is subliminally and deeply fixed within the culture. As a means of social oppression, ableism has not been addressed sufficiently in community thinking given the interest of this field in socio-political minority groups.

Within theorization of ableism, bodies as individual and inter-subjective involvements are the focus of scrutiny. And within disability copies, impaired body has been differently seen, reflecting the forms and shapes of ableism politics. On one hand, the medical model has been backing significantly to ableism due to their idea of considering a body abnormal because it is impaired, inferior, deviant, and seeing it as in need of normalization or correction. Furthermore, rather than simply dominating the physical capital of people with disabilities, the medical model, due to its importance in society, dominates also their symbolic, social, and political capital. On the other hand, the social model from the start has made a diverse separation of impairment and disability, and its focus on fighting against prejudgment and discrimination and protecting self-determination and people with disabilities rights, has ensued a quite recently addition of the impairment and body in disability movement.

The most damaging assumption by ableist is the belief that disabled people are not intelligent naturally. Therefore, although presentation on a high-stakes exam should not be the only way through which disabled students can demonstrate their intelligence by showing what they know, the condition to include disabled students in standards-based reform shows potential. Many in the disability community hope that this condition will counter the low prospects that have overwhelmed disabled students in the past (Rocco, 2011)

In the bid to eliminate ableism we can see initiatives being formed to rid of it. One of them is the introduction of special education. Special needs education is the education of learners with special needs in a way that accepts the students’ individual needs and differences. Preferably, this process consists of systematically monitored and individually planned arrangement of teaching ways, adapted materials and equipment, accessible settings, and other involvements designed to help students with special needs attain a higher level of personal success and self-sufficiency in community and school than would be possible if the learner was only given access to a normal classroom education.

We can consider the introduction of multicultural education. Students and teachers need to recognize that all learners have their own identity and disabled students often view their disability as a measure of their individuality. Multicultural education helps to teach students the difference in cultures and works to teach abilities that allow for differences to be valued and understood. To consider Ableism in this type of education, teachers can embrace simple lessons such as person first language and not allowing degrading terms to be used in the classroom.

As we progress in our growth as a multicultural educators, we need to recall the impact that the showcasing of individuals with disabilities in popular culture has on the learners. One easily forgets that this as well as the comments and beliefs shared in the home setting allow for reinforcement and perpetuation of beliefs. We realize that we are not able to have an intense impact in shifting the way society views individuals with disabilities but we can begin by making changes in our own classroom.

In television and movies, disabled people portrayed the villain, the source of entertainment or the victim. In the past twenty years, there has been an amplified inclusion of positive depictions of people with disabilities in television shows and movies. People with disabilities have been a popular source of material in the comedy industry. Inclusion of movie previews that favor the disabled have been introduced in order to make them feel part of the entertainment industry. This was achieved by producing movies with subtitles and also including movie previews with sign language that are important in the inclusion of the deaf and speech impaired.

Disability supporters stress the use of person first language such as a young man with Autism instead of the Autistic young man. Terms used like retarded, dumb, lame, cripple and gimp in popular culture only carry on to depict disabilities in a negative way as well as depreciate individuals with disabilities. Some disabled people refer to themselves as Crip or gimp and others similar terms can drive to the continuation of nondisabled individual’s use of these terms. The Spread the word to end the word campaign assembled support for the termination of using the retard word. Several campaigns have been introduced to rid of these hurtful words that normally lower the self-esteem of people with disabilities. Also rehabilitation of disabled people has been emphasized in order to make them feel part of the human race by considering themselves normal.

During earlier years of ableism, sports that involved disabled people was something like a fairy tale. Disabled people were never included in competitions due to their conditions. However, times have changed and there have been numerous introductions of disabled games including the Olympics. This has proven to be essential as it has helped in involving disabled people with others.

The principle of universal design first related to architecture; it entitled public structures to be planned in a way that disabled people would be able to use them. Buildings designed using this principle, for example, would include automatic door opening devices, fire alarm systems with lights activated for the deaf and ramps. Universal design permits for access without unreasonable means and is based on the notion that people with disabilities are many and should be living lives like the rest of us.

The American education system has developed major steps in improving education opportunities for people with disabilities. Majority of the disabled are advancing high school, and record figures are advancing to higher education and unemployment. Much of this development has been achieved because of the work of school heads throughout America.

To continue and enlarge this progress, however, educationalists must identify and challenge the ableist traditions that still pervade the culture and guide much special education training. Disabled students need carefully created, individual instructional programs that identify the effects of their condition while generating opportunities for their full participation in the school and society.

In conclusion, we can see that ableism is a trait that does not favor the disabled people in the community. Most of them tend to live difficult lives due to the fact that they are being discriminated upon by the able-bodied in the society. We can however rid of this by considering disabled people as one of our own for disability is not inability.


Ableism, Accessibility and Inclusion | SOA Watch: Close the School of the Americas. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.soaw.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=607

Campbell, F. K. (2009). Contours of ableism: The production of disability and abledness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Educational Leadership:Improving Instruction for Students with Learning Needs:Confronting Ableism. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb07/vol64/num05/Confronting-Ableism.aspx

Harvard Education Letter. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://hepg.org/hel/article/299

Rocco, T. S. (2011). Challenging ableism, understanding disability, including adults with disabilities in workplaces and learning spaces. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.