Posted on September 7, 2017 by Tia Lalani

Two university professors discuss how ableism nearly destroyed their friendship, and explain how to avoid disability prejudice in the classroom and at home.

By Heidi L. Janz and Michelle Stack


You pick your child up at school and see her hanging out with a child with autism. Your reaction is: A) pride, B) confusion, C) concern, D) pity. If you said yes to any of the above you could have ableism.

In schools, disability prejudice impacts opportunities for connection and learning for all children. Another word for it is “ableism” — a form of discrimination that favours able-bodied people. It has long permeated our culture through stereotypes — from hunchback movie villains to the idea of the “supercrip” that defies all odds.

Ableism contributes to the isolation of children with disabilities. It encourages students without disabilities to see relationships with their disabled peers as helper-helpee relationships, rather than reciprocal friendships. Worst of all, ableism teaches children early on that some lives are more worthy than others. This can have deadly consequences — evidenced by the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, and by more recent events such as the 2016 massacre in a home for the disabled in Japan.

As a society, we need to say no to ableism. We must see disability for what it is — a natural part of human experience, rather than something to be feared.

We are two university professors, working in disability ethics and in education, who met in high school. Our friendship was very nearly destroyed by ableism. We offer our story as an illustration — of how disability prejudice can afflict all kids, and how to avoid it, in the classroom and at home.

To read the rest of the article on The Conversation, click here.

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