Disability, Ableism & Inclusion

When a person’s body or brain works quite differently from most other people that difference is called a disability. Individuals can be born with their disability or their disability can occur later in life through accident or illness. Autism is a neuro-developmental disability that individuals are born with. Disability includes physical, sensory, cognitive, developmental, intellectual, developmental and mental health conditions.

People usually think about disability in one of two ways.

Social Model of Disability & Inclusion

The ‘Social Model’ of disability thinks of disability as a natural part of diversity in humans. The Social Model considers that how a person experiences their disability is mostly about the society we live in and how well society values, plans and does things to accommodate and support the needs of all types of body’s and brains.

When looking at disability from the social model, we can see how limitations are put on disabled people by society:

  • Buildings that only have stairs are an example of when people with certain physical disabilities are disabled by society.
  • A school that doesn’t have learning materials and worksheets for all kinds of brains can understand disables children from equal learning opportunities.
  • A blind person is disabled by society when written information is not also available in audio or accessible by text readers, and a non-speaking person disabled when they are not given access to other ways of communicating.

Inclusion describes every person having equal access and opportunity to all places and all things. Inclusion recognises that no one type of body, or one type of brain is better than another type. Inclusion recognises the value of all individuals and the importance of diversity.

Inclusion means doing things in a way that meets the different needs of all people. An inclusive playground design has paths for wheelchairs, braille signs blind and vision impaired and play equipment that can be used by kids with all kinds of body differences.

An inclusive school is flexible and adapts to the individual needs of each child. Their classrooms are designed to support kids with different mobility needs and lessons are taught using lots of different methods and resources to support how different brains learn.

Inclusion is about fairness and respect and valuing everyone equally.

Medical Model of Disability & Ableism

The ‘Medical Model’ of disability is a pathologizing model that considers disability to be inherently negative and a problem that needs to be cured or fixed. The medical model thinks about disability only from a deficit perspective and is based on long held historic belief systems that a person with a body or brain difference is less capable, less worthy and less valuable than a person without disability.

‘Ableism’ is a word that describes the belief systems and thoughts that disability equates to ‘less than’. Ableist beliefs and thoughts is what drives discrimination, social prejudice and oppression of people with disability.

Ableism is believing that the average, typically developing person is superior to a person with disability. It is believing verbal speech is superior to sign language and other communication methods, that walking is superior to being a wheelchair user and that neurotypical processing is superior to neurodivergent processing.

Ableism is feelings of pity towards a person with disability. It is using or thinking of a disabled person doing ordinary things as ‘inspirational’. Ableism is discomfort in using the word disabled and instead insist “Mary isn’t disabled, she is ‘differently-abled”. Ableism is believing all people with disabilities wish they could be cured. It is slurs like ‘James is so retarded’, ‘Trump is such a psychopath’, “The weather has been so bipolar’, ‘Sophie is wheelchair bound’, ‘Your so lucky you got extra time on your exam’.

Ableism is not about the disabled person. Ableism is about faulty belief systems, fears and discomfort of the Ableist and their need for categorization; founded on historic systems of socially constructed ideas around capitalism, eugenics and anti-blackness.