The new school year started a few days ago and today I want to teach you a new word, or rather a word that means something totally different to what it seems
I like playing with words, using them in the right way and adjusting them to their intended use, which is why I find the word “ableism” so curious, precisely because it is not what it seems.
Looking at it calmly, I realise that it could appear to mean having the full ability to perform an action. Something positive, a quality of which to be proud …
Nothing could be further from the truth!
According to the dictionary, “ableism” means discriminating against people with disabilities and, within this broad topic, it refers to the attitude of society and of the disabled themselves.
Ableism does not just affect people who are not differently abled, but also the disabled themselves, who take on that condition of minority in which society places people who have physical or mental limitations.
We should then divide the concept into those who cause ableism and those who are subjected to it. The former are those who reinforce stereotypes, by using words that could offend others, for example. Think of when young people jokingly use the word “handicapped” or “spastic” with the intention of denigrating the behaviour of a classmate or friend.
Being an ableist means treating disabled people as if they are inferior beings, defining them by their disabilities. I once stopped to look at a shop window, only to be followed afterwards by the shop owner, who gave me rosary beads, stroked my head and murmured various religious words. I felt this was a total lack of respect, both of my religious beliefs and as a person and not a being to be beautified.
One aspect that gives me great pause for thought is the feminist movement, which fights so hard for equality, yet always, or almost always, neglects woman with disabilities.
A perfect example is a visit to the gynaecologist. Personally, I am rarely able to find clinics equipped for a woman with disabilities: the couch is almost always too high for me to get onto it easily.
Worse still is going for breast screening. I cannot have a mammogram, because the machine cannot be adapted to reduced dimensions and someone who is seated, so I have to have an ultrasound if I want prevention, with the lengthy waits that entails and often completely at my own expense.
You learned a new word today, so please: be able, but not ableist. I will be keeping an eye on you.