Ableism has been engrained in our society for so long that even many of us Disabled people have been unable to escape internalizing ableist attitudes at least at some time during our lives. Certainly this is true among many people with acquired disabilities: having once been abled, it can be very hard to learn to accept the new reality of disability, and this can result in plummeting self esteem if the ableist attitudes are not faced and overcome soon after the person has become Disabled. And for those of us born to disability, internalized ablism is something that we have been taught from a very early age, whether by family, school mates, or teachers and other authority figures. And as such it can be so deeply entrenched that some of us actually believe ourselves to be “less than”, of lesser value than an abled person despite the fact that disability is a fact of life for most people at some time in their lives.
And the fallout from ableism, whether held by (temporarily) abled people or the internalized kind I have suffered from nearly all my life till recently is manifold in everything from poor education and lack of work opportunities for Disabled people to the secondary depression and anxiety that frequently affect Disabled people who are isolated or have little emotional support for learning to accept their impairments. It can result even in suicide, particularly among people with acquired disabilities. And for some of us, such internalized ableism can result in being unable to speak out against the injustices done to us, or even result in us agreeing with our abusers that we “don’t deserve” to be treated like the human beings that we are.
Ableism is a societal delusion like unto racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and oppression. It is a form of hate and of intolerance, and is at the root of such crimes against humanity as those regularly committed at the Judge Rotenberg Center or the atrocity that was the lot of The Men of Atalissa. And as with other forms of bigotry, ableism costs our society in economic terms as well as in our overall health, especially in the United States where healthcare is not a right.
Ten years ago, into this atmosphere of general and casual ableism stepped Autism Speaks (sometimes hereafter referred to as “A$” for brevity’s sake) with its message of fear and “epidemic”, and the promise of finding a cure for the “terrible illness” that they claimed autism to be. Already there had been a few organizations whose aim was to eliminate autism by any means possible, but none had had the sheer economic power and access to media that Bob and Suzanne Wright had with their millions of personal wealth and Bob’s position at GE and NBC. When Autism Speaks began launching their annual fundraising walks, it was as if all the air — not to mention money — got sucked out of the proverbial room: other organizations whose mission was more accepting of autism and Autistics began to see a sharp decline in revenue as parents unwilling to accept the Autistic children they had and desperate to “fix” them soaked up A$’s message of validation for their unloving attitudes toward their neurodivergent kids.
Perhaps many of these parents could never have been persuaded to change their intolerant and unaccepting attitudes, to learn to accept their children as they were. But at least some of them and perhaps many more over time, might have been open to changing their ableist attitudes, had Autism Speaks been willing to learn from actually Autistic people and have Autistics central to the running of their organization. Alas, they chose to use their economic and media power to perpetuate and reinforce hateful attitudes toward and fear of autism, and in doing so, they have created an atmosphere of anti-Autisticism — the form of ableism specific to the bigotry against Autistics. Read More HERE