By Stevie Buckley
It’s times like these when I start feeling unsafe in my surroundings. I have heard a lot of ableist languages (language that is discriminatory towards disabled people) around the college this year, much more than I’ve heard in previous years – and it’s only October.
I have heard ableist slurs that I won’t repeat here and extremely offensive ‘impersonations’ of people with intellectual disabilities. Be it in the Bialann or in a corridor, I just can’t seem to get away from it. To the people who use these devices, it might seem like some light humour, but it is gravely upsetting to disabled people and to the people who know and/or love them.
Ableism is rampant in our society. As racism and sexism become more and more unacceptable, ableism is on the rise. Be it saying, “that was crazy”, or using the ‘r’ slur, ableism and ableist language has become acceptable, even normalised, in our society, especially in teenagers and young adults.
Before you use ableist language, ask yourself this question: would you use this language towards a disabled person? You’d probably think twice in this situation because you’d realize how derogatory these terms are to disabled people. Of course, there are people who would use them anyway, but I’m willing to bet that most people wouldn’t. If you would use ableist terms in relation to a disabled person (or a healthy person for that matter), I hope this article will change your mind.
If you use these terms in relation to someone without a disability, it is no different from using it for a disabled person. It’s not okay, you are invalidating disabled people and making it seem like being disabled is a bad thing. Being disabled is not an inherently bad thing in a lot of cases, it’s a difference in how your brain and/or body works or doesn’t work. Many disabled people have learned to love themselves, just like abled people have. To them, their disability is who they are, and they embrace it.
As a disabled person, it makes me upset to hear such carry-on in this university. It makes disabled people like me feel left out and upset at best or, at worst, unsafe. University is supposed to be a place that’s accessible for everyone and a place where everyone feels included and safe. Unfortunately, I don’t feel included in this University, and I won’t until something is done about this ableist language.
There should be more knowledge out there in relation to what language is and isn’t ableist. College students, especially, should try their best to learn how to be more inclusive and this includes being inclusive to those with disabilities. Ableism is mentioned in a couple of college papers and handbooks, especially by disability support services, but not enough people read official papers to make a big difference in how we think and communicate
So, before you call what happened in DNA last night “crazy”, think twice – the wrong person could overhear you.