20 April 2016

Ableism exists.

 (Image: graffiti drawing of black woman with coloured words for hair, the slogan ableism exists in bold purple text.)

On Sunday, American disability activist, film maker and writer Dominick Evans asked me to take part in the Ableism Exists hashtag on Twitter - an initiative he started to prove ableism does exist. Hashtags like #AbleismExists (and #CrippingTheMighty and #CripTheVote) are powerful online movements of solidarity. And movements like these really do catch the attention of the non disabled - they told me they were listening.

Ableism is the discrimination towards disabled people. (Like racism and sexism.) You see, many disbelieve ableism exists. Many think the situations we've written about are situations we're taking too seriously, or encourage us to give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

People from across the world shared their experiences and opinions on ableism. It was an eye opening conversation. Many experiences I related to, and some I couldn't fathom. I felt a collective sense of empathy, frustration and love as we tweeted our lived examples of ableism.

I shared the following, and added a couple for this blog. Like #AbledPeopleSay, all experiences I've written about have happened to me, and my opinions have been formed through observations of actual situations. Recalling the experiences made me quite emotional.

Here goes.

Ableism exists when strangers go silent/comment/laugh/point when they see me as they're shocked by my red face.

Ableism exists when the biggest disability focused website The Mighty doesn't pay its writers. #crippingthemighty

Ableism exists on The Mighty most of the time.

Ableism exists when people say "don't let your disability define you". Let it define us. Be proud. It's part of our identities, we can't ignore it.

Ableism exists when sales assistants don't pay me attention because they don't expect me to love fashion like I do.

Ableism exists when I was thrown out of a store because the shopkeeper said my face would ruin the clothes she sold. 6 years ago.

Ableism exists when disabled people are told we are too vocal for speaking up about ableism and discrimination.

Ableism exists because people assumed I studied at TAFE while I was studying my masters degree.

Ableism exists because there are no people with disabilities on commercial Australian television. Let's change that.

Ableism exists because many disability charities focus on finding a cure rather than maintaining a good daily life and teaching pride.

Ableism exists when medically unqualified people try sell me pyramid scheme products. Noni juice. Stem cell pills. Microsilk tubs. Fuck off.

Ableism exists when people tell me they don't see my red skin anymore. My red skin is part of my identity, and I'm proud.

Ableism exists when people think it's ok to ask me about my appearance before saying hello.

Ableism exists when people ask me how I "got like this."

Ableism exists when people tell me they're not being rude when I call them on their intrusive, ridiculous rudeness.

Ableism exists when unqualified people tell me I shouldn't be using petroleum products for my skin because they're dangerous.

Ableism exists when I didn't get the job because my medical condition "might be a distraction to the organisation's clients".

Ableism exists when people tell me "you're actually really pretty" or describe my "inner beauty". Fuck off.

Ableism exists when people aren't sure what to say about my red face so they wave their hands around their face.

Ableism exists when I have to explain that I'm not contagious to hairdressers and nail technicians.

Ableism exists when inspiration porn is how people learn about and "accept" disability.

Ableism exists when people expect my husband to be disabled too.

Ableism exists when a guy I went on a date with said "I'd kill myself if I had your condition".

Ableism exists when "awareness" is sharing photos of people with disabilities doing every day things to inspire others.

Ableism exists when editor dumbed down my writing into simple language, because they expected their disabled audience wouldn't comprehend.

Ableism exists when I am told that each rude, intrusive encounter is an education moment. I'm not everyone's teacher.

Ableism exists when I'm told I'm rude for not wanting to explain why I look the way I do to everyone who asks.

Ableism exists when I'm asked by strangers if I can have sex and if I will pass on Ichthyosis to my children?.

Ableism exists when I'm told I'm too passionate about disability in the workplace.

Ableism exists because workplace 'disability champions' are almost always non disabled senior staff who have no lived disability experience.

Ableism exists when non disabled actors are hired to play disabled characters - and win awards for Cripping up.

Ableism exists when people still find it acceptable to say Retard and Spastic etc and try to justify it "because language has evolved".

Ableism exists when the audience laughs at comedians when they use slurs like retards and spastic.

Ableism Exists When you blog abt how you called someone out for being rude, and you get "Carly, you missed a Teachable Moment!" (From Karen - she summed it up perfectly.)

Ableism exists when people tell me "you're not disabled like them".

Ableism exists when people with disabilities aren't paid for our time, lived experience and skills by companies that want us to work for them.

Ableism exists because people are uncomfortable about disability. Their views on it are formed because of stereotypes of disability.

Ableism exists when people can't understand why we have disability pride. "Why are you proud of an 'inferior' body and mind?", they ask.

Ableism exists when I'm refused a seat on the train because I don't look like I need one.

Ableism exists when I feel so guilty for not being able to work because I'm too unwell - I feel guilty because of stigma around sick days.

Ableism exists when parents shush me for speaking up about the general oversharing and shaming of children with disability online.

Ableism exists when people tell me I'm not disabled, as though it's less than, that I should be ashamed of disability.

Ableism exists when strangers pray for me, hoping to heal my Ichthyosis and change my appearance.

Ableism exists when carers need a space to chat about disability issues, without any disabled people, because they'll probably offend.

Ableism exists when my photo was misused on Reddit for ridicule by hundreds, and Reddit staff and moderators did NOTHING to stop it.

Ableism exists because disability simulation lessons are still taught.

Ableism exists when you're discouraged from identifying as being disabled by others in your illness community, because it's a negative thing

Ableism exists when people with disabilities are expected to be nice and take the ableism and discrimination.

Ableism exists when other disabled people try to one-up you with severity of impairment.

Ableism exists when workplaces put up attitudinal and physical barriers to employment - starting with application process.

Ableism exists when governments and media calls people with disabilities burdens for getting necessary welfare support.

Ableism exists when my first time discussing children with my fiancé was led by someone else, assuming I'd pass Ichthyosis on. So upsetting.

I hope non disabled people are reading the #ableismexists Twitter stream. So much can be learnt and changed from us tweeting our stories.

Ableism exists. This means we have to keep talking about ableism, making it known that it happens, thus changing attitudes.

You can contribute to the initiative at #AbleismExists on Twitter, or read the tweet summary on Dominick's Storify. Follow Dominick on Twitter and Facebook.

(Image: graffiti drawing of black woman with coloured words for hair, the slogan "ableism exists" in bold purple text.)




  1. Ya know, I'm not feeling it.

    K is so much more than Down syndrome. I don't want him to be defined by it.

    And I don't dig on the whole "ableist" thing.

    Some people have more visible disabilities than others. Some have more disabling disabilities. Some have been able to overcome. Some have not.

    It's life.

    I don't see DS as a gift. Not in the least. Not for K. I can see how others may benefit, but I don't see how he does. Not overall.

    And I'll be damned if I'll allow it to define who he is. K will set his own definition and, if I've done my job right, DS will be a footnote.

    1. Have a read of the whole post H, this I'd just one example of how I've encountered ableism. It's great that everyone can identify how they want to. Maybe K will see it as a gift when he's older, maybe he won't, and whatever the case, that's ok.

      For me, and many proud disabled people, disability is part of our identity. Not our whole identity, but it makes us who we are - just like I enjoy cheese, love to travel, am newly married, am a fangirl, I have ichthyosis (I write about it) and it defines me in some way.

      Meriah Nichols wrote a beautiful piece on how she would like her child to embrace her DS. http://www.meriahnichols.com/let-down-syndrome-define-you/

    2. I appreciate your point of view. And Meriah's. I've read both articles through.

      And if your love of cheese is how you choose to define yourself, that's fine. I see that as a footnote. I too love cheese. But that's not who I am.

      Cheese is the mainstay of K diet. He has about 5-10 cheese sticks everyday. I hope he does not allow it to define him.

    3. People know me as a cheese lover, among other things, not as cheese. I'm ok with that.

  2. I read the Storify of all the tweets yesterday. I am sad to say not many of them surprised me. I continue to share and am glad you shared your tweets here.

  3. Thank you for compiling all of this examples of how #AbleismExists.

  4. Keep on writing, Carly! I learned from reading this article. Won't ever tweet a Mighty article again, even when they accidentally publish a good one, until they pay their writers!


Thank you for reading my blog. I love receiving comments :)
I really appreciate the time you've taken to write to me, and to share something about yourself.


Related Posts with Thumbnails