In our Contemporary Drama course, we recently dove into the worlds of playwrights John Belluso (Pyretown) and Aditi Kapil (Love Person). The concept of “ableism” came up, and we stumbled around in the definition of the term for some time. I offer now an informative article from Bitch Media titled “Transcontinental Disability Choir: What is Ableist Language and Why Should You Care?”
Ableism is a central concept in disability rights. The term was originally popularized by Thomas Hehir, a special education scholar who defined it as “’the devaluation of disability’ that ‘results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with nondisabled kids as opposed to other disabled kids.’” There are many varied manifestations of ingrained ableism in contemporary society and pop culture, but I see it most often in uncritical use of language based on ableist assumptions – even by speakers or authors who are progressive and who are against ableism as a concept.