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It's Time for the Disability Community to Talk About Our Internalized Ableism

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Have you ever been called a faker by another person with a disability? Have you ever thought someone didn’t deserve the right to accessibility because you believed they weren’t “disabled enough?” Why are those with disabilities sometimes the harshest critics of others who have disabilities?

These are all great questions that we have to ask ourselves in the disabled community. Ableist ideas and views don’t just come from able-bodied people. We as disabled individuals and as a community struggle with ableist ideas all the time. Although ableist ideas still come from able-bodied society, it does not mean the disability community is excluded from having ableist ideas and that we do not struggle with our own internalized ableism.

Internalized ableism isn’t always intentional. Sometimes it comes from wanting to seem “normal,” so we reject whatever society deems as being associated with disability. Sometimes there can be hierarchies and competitions within the disabled community. Not all disabled communities want to align with other parts of the community. There can be a clear divide between those with severe disabilities and those with mild or invisible illnesses. Those with intellectual disabilities may not associate with those with physical disabilities. However, this hierarchy isn’t always questioned.

Why do we feel like we need to distance ourselves from our fellow disabled comrades? We fight for our own causes but often forget about those that don’t affect us.

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There was a time I thought if you complained or talked about your disability, it meant you needed attention. I thought it was better to keep quiet than to talk about my disability. As I got older and understood more about these ableist views, I realized that sharing my story was going to help me and others like myself. Discussing disability and my story didn’t mean I personally needed attention, it meant my cause needed attention.

I implore the disabled community to band together and fight ableism together. Our disabilities should never be questioned by each other. It isn’t a competition, and I don’t know what you truly go through every day just like you don’t know what I truly go through every day. We ask for compassion from able-bodied persons, I’m asking the same from the disabled community. If we can come together, just imagine what we can accomplish.

How have you struggled with your own internalized ableism? Did you ever have preconceived notions about disabilities before? Do you still? Let’s take down those barriers and shed some light on and maybe make our disability community better.

Getty image by Riderfoot.

Originally published: June 10, 2020
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