Being Put on a Pedestal

Manuel, Phase I Scholar
Manuel outside wearing helmet

We as a society are on a journey to reaching equality and making progress every year. In some areas, we make slow or little progress, but at least that’s better than no progress at all. With regards to ableism, I believe we are far from making obvious progress, but the story is not over. 

To me, ableism refers to actions that showcase rejecting people with disabilities, taking their struggles for granted, being glad you aren’t like them, and making distasteful comments and jokes about them. This is a very undertaught topic that I never learned in my history classes. I hope we can bring more awareness of people with disabilities’ needs and stop ableist representations of people with disabilities.

People tend to fixate on people with disabilities by seeing them as inspirational just for living their lives. While being inspirational is not generally seen as a negative, in this context it is often nondisabled people saying people with disabilities can’t live up to more. People with disabilities are not special for just having a disability; they are special for being themselves, developing expertise, and using their voices. People with disabilities want to be treated like everyone else, not like little kids. They are human beings with feelings who don’t deserve to be joked about, stereotyped, or called bad words targeting their disabilities. Words matter, as they affect feelings, emotions, and social norms. While it can be nice to offer help to someone with a disability, don’t take it as an opportunity to ask about their disability. People with disabilities also don’t want to feel pressured to constantly explain their stories and backgrounds. It is often stressful for people with disabilities when they have to repeatedly explain their disabilities just to receive reasonable accommodations. 

People with disabilities appreciate the continued support of people in society. They often need help with developing advocacy skills to have equal opportunities. Though I will probably be very old when I notice significant progress in beating ableism, I hope in due time more people understand that people with disabilities are just normal people living on Earth and that disabilities are a social construct. 

“Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.” Stella Young (1982 – 2014)