Disablism and ableism

Disablism and ableism are words that are used to describe disability discrimination and prejudice, like sexism and racism are used to describe discrimination against women and different ethnic groups.

Definitions

Disablism

Disablism is discrimination or prejudice against disabled people. 

“an organisation has a problem with disablism”

“a disablist attitude”

Ableism

Ableism is discrimination in favour of non-disabled people.

“an organisation has a problem with ableism”

“an ableist attitude”

The difference between disablism and ableism

Both terms describe disability discrimination, but the emphasis is different. 

Disablism emphasises discrimination against disabled people.

Ableism emphasises discrimination in favour of non-disabled people.

Should I say disablism or ableism?

Different people prefer to use one or other term. Or it might depend on which aspect of discrimination you want to emphasise.

Neither is considered wrong and they can be used interchangeably. 

Examples

Discrimination can take many forms. Here are some examples:

  • No ramp to help a wheelchair user get on to a train
  • Having steps instead of a ramp to access a shop
  • Making assumptions about what a disabled person can or cannot do
  • Not making reasonable adjustments at work.

Advice and support

Find out what you can do to challenge discrimination in the workplace. 

Discrimination at work.

Or speak to others and share experiences on the Scope community.

Join our online community.

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