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.
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.