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Ableism: Bias Against People with Disabilities Essay

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Updated: May 7th, 2021

Ableism denotes social prejudice and bias against people with disabilities (PWD) and in favor of able-bodied individuals. People are not born with such prejudice embedded in them but learn it later in life from the community, the media, parents, and friends, to mention a few. Many people are not as skillful as they ought to be with respect to interrelations with individuals they perceive to be of a different culture or ability. At times, even people with good intentions occasionally say or behave in a prejudiced or biased approach, even unwittingly (Scott, 2016). Social influence is a great aspect that may change a person’s behavior and mindset regarding other people or a group. PWD act as a minority group that is hardly talked about but is greatly oppressed.

Generally, modern society does not appreciate the different talents and abilities of PWD but treats them like castaways. Very little attention is given to PWD, their challenges, and the oppression that they encounter. Impairments are regarded as defects that must be fixed to make people with such disabilities ‘normal’ again (Adjei, 2018). This has been a prevalent manner of thinking where being able-bodied is considered normal. Society is inclined to meeting the demands of the able-bodied while ignoring the needs of PWD.

Ableism entails the application of unsuitable words, unfairness in places of work and learning institutions, denial of service, lack of required amenities, and unequal and discourteous treatment of PWD. Even the practice of favoring the less disabled individual over the more disabled one is deemed a type of ableism.

Ableists, people who are inclined to the ideals of ableism and who practice it, may do it both intentionally and unintentionally. Even strangers, members of the family, colleagues, and peers with good intentions may unintentionally subscribe to the notions of ableists while motivating and encouraging a patient with words such as, “engage in regular exercise so that you walk again and make your life better.” Some forms of disabilities, such as mental disability, are highly stigmatized when judged against others because of the previously associated stereotypes (Silva & Howe, 2018). In this regard, people with schizophrenia and other forms of mental disorders may face stigmatization and discrimination from able-bodied individuals anchored in the mistaken notion of their being dangerous.

Attributable to the increased stigmatization against people with some forms of mental health disorders, many individuals may choose to suffer silently rather than disclose their problems to others for fear of ill-treatment and segregation. For instance, they may fear being labeled, losing their employment positions or housing, going through prejudiced treatment in the provision of necessary services after disclosure of a mental health problem, and dealing with negative attitudes from their peers and members of the community. When this happens, even able-bodied people fail to reap the benefits of the contributions by talented PWD (Goodley, 2014). The fear of being stigmatized may lead to such people not seeking the necessary mental health care until situations arise where the problem is noticed while it is too late to cure it.

In its worst occurrences, ableism may result in society going down the route of euthanasia because of disabilities being considered a departure from the norm and the belief that the continued existence of PWD is worthless. Under such circumstances, failure to provide the required support and services to people with disabilities makes their survival exceedingly hard, and they may end up committing suicide or choosing euthanasia.

On this note, there is a need for the global community to be mindful of the treatment and attitudes towards PWD and avoid practices and dialogues which are ableist (Thompson, 2015). Ableism should not be practiced by anyone in society, and diversity ought to be lionized and acknowledged as a variety of abilities. People concerned with rights advocacy ought to ensure a facilitated awareness of the distressing impacts of ableism through the inclusion of the subject in private and public discussions.

A wide pool of studies affirms that people with disabilities are discriminated against by being treated as if they were outcasts due to their alleged inabilities when judged against able-bodied individuals. However, many approaches may be employed to decrease discrimination against PWD with the application of multidimensional strategies (Berridge & Martinson, 2017). People only need to be enlightened to the fact that everyone has prejudice, but through learning and increasing knowledge, it is easy to eradicate stereotypes and treat people kindly and alike irrespective of their culture, ability, or race. This may be implemented early in children’s lives if a system of education initiates more opportunities and programs for people with disabilities and promotes enhanced intergroup affiliation.

Interrelations involving diverse individuals alter their convictions and sentiments towards one another. In this regard, if one has the chance to interact with others and value their lifestyle, understanding them and eliminating prejudice should be effortless. In ancient times, PWD experienced great discrimination in society. They were mistaken to be foolish, abnormal and were at times compelled to undergo cleansing in an effort to make themselves normal (Berridge & Martinson, 2017). In the 1950s, veterans who had taken part in the Second World War and returned with disabilities started to persuade the government to assist them through the provision of rehabilitation programs. Because the government disregarded their plea, the ex-servicemen started to make disability known across the nation.

In the course of the civil rights movements of the 1960s, activists started to collaborate with PWD and other minority groups to call for the consideration of their issues. In 1964, an act (The Civil Rights Act) was enforced to outlaw discrimination based on ethnic background, gender, and religion. However, this act failed to incorporate PWD. After much activism, only in 1990 was an act to protect the rights of PWD passed: the Americans with Disabilities Act (Thompson, 2015).

The strength of this act lies in its illegalization of prejudice against PWD and its push for equal opportunities for both able-bodied individuals and people with disabilities in the workplace, private, national, and local government services such as transportation and housing, among others.

For PWD, the ability to realize developmental objectives at times relies minimally on their disabilities and more on treatment by family members, colleagues, teachers, and other influential people. The fundamentals of transformation rest in the society’s social and environmental factors. PWD are human beings similar to their able-bodied counterparts and should be treated equally as their disabilities do not classify their skills or personalities. Some of the practices that are vital in helping to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities include increased awareness about the challenges that they face, educating able-bodied people in the best way of treating them, enhanced interactions, and embracing diversity.


Adjei, P. B. (2018). The (em) bodiment of blackness in a visceral anti-black racism and ableism context. Race Ethnicity and Education, 21(3), 275-287.

Berridge, C. W., & Martinson, M. (2017). Valuing old age without leveraging ableism. Generations, 41(4), 83-91.

Goodley, D. (2014). Dis/ability studies: Theorising disablism and ableism. Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Scott, P. S. (2016). Addressing ableism in workplace policies and practices: The case for disability standards in employment. Flinders Law Journal, 18, 121.

Silva, C. F., & Howe, P. D. (2018). The social empowerment of difference: The potential influence of Para sport. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics, 29(2), 397-408.

Thompson, A. E. (2015). The Americans with Disabilities Act. Jama, 313(22), 2296-2296.

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