United Against Ableism
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, 18 U.S.C. §249, required the FBI to collect data concerning hate crimes committed by or directed against juveniles. Beginning in 2013, law enforcement began reporting the number of victims who are 18 years of age or older, the number of victims under the age of 18, and the number of individual victims. Of the 6,628 individuals for which victim age data were reported in 2019, 5,909 hate crime victims were adults, and 719 hate crime victims were juveniles.
Twenty-six percent of adults in the United States live with a disability. According to the Department of Justice, persons with disabilities comprised 26% of victims of all nonfatal crimes between 2017 and 2019. In fact, one in three robbery victims had at least one disability.
Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.
The Tip Sheets For First Responders were developed in response to requests from first responders who wanted quick, easy-to-understand guidance on how to effectively work with people with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities in emergency situations. Since 2003, over 120,000 copies of the Tip Sheets have been distributed throughout the United States and abroad.
This lesson provides an opportunity for students to understand what ableism is and the many ways it manifests, reflect on specific examples of ableism and categorize them, and consider ways they can be allies and take actions to confront and challenge ableism.
Teaching about ableism is important because there is a portion of our population—a crucial portion—that is being oppressed. Students should be given the opportunity to learn about how people with disabilities are affected by ableism and what they can do to help eliminate ableism!
Even though one in four Americans is disabled, ableism is one of the few remaining socially accepted forms of discrimination. It’s time to change how society values people with disabilities and create an equitable and inclusive world for all disabled people.
As language, perceptions, and social mores change rapidly, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists and other communicators to figure out how to refer to people with disabilities. Even the term “disability” is not universally accepted. This style guide, which covers dozens of words and terms commonly used when referring to disability, can help. The guide was developed by the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and was last updated in the summer of 2021.
When discussing ableism it is important to not label people either able or disable. Because someone can become disabled or overcome disabilities (physical or mental) in their lifetime we use the terms temporarily able and temporarily disable. In the same breath, it is also important to refer to people with disabilities as people with disabilities, not disabled people because the person comes before the disability.
People with disabilities are more likely than people without disabilities to be victims of mistreatment, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The Victimization and People with Disabilities: It’s Real TALKS Train-The-Trainer Discussion Guide, with videos, is for organizations to learn about victims with developmental and other disabilities who have experienced crimes of sexual assault, trafficking, financial exploitation, and Medicaid fraud; and solutions from professionals to help support survivors and to reduce victimization of people with disabilities.