Surviving Chronic Illness; Learning About Ableist Language

Ableism And Identity

              “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy.

              Ableism is something that has been prevalent in museum settings for ages, accommodations seem to only be made for those who are immobile and wheel chair bound. The disability symbol itself is a stick figure in a wheel chair, the symbol is not inclusive of people like me, I use a wheel chair sometimes, but not all of the time. 

              What makes me who I am. I am an activist. I write and speak of the social injustices towards the disabled—something which is not propelled into the limelight as much as other discrimination topics.

              Ableism is discrimination towards the disabled. The world is set up to be in favor of the non-disabled person. Not all disabilities mean being in a wheelchair; due to this social stigmatic view, the only disability radially accepted is how someone is in a wheelchair is stigmatizing and wrong. It is a single viewpoint on a massively broad spectrum of disabilities as all disabilities are not visible. Thus, I have been met with ableist hate, not only from non-disabled people but also from fellow disabled individuals.

              What is casual ableist language? Casual ableist language is so ingrained within society that many of us do not realize we are using ableist language. When we use a mental illness to describe how we feel, but we lack the mental illness, this is being casually ableist. Now getting uncomfortable is where change can happen, changing out thoughts leads to different actions. When someone says, “I am so triggered,” but lacks triggers, this is practicing the ableist language. Saying, “I am so OCD” when not having OCD is also ableist. There are commonly used words and phrases which create isolation and disconnect between the non-disabled and the disabled. This language includes the following words, dumb, blind, deaf, lame, crazy, insane, to name a few. When we use a disability as a form of mockery, we are fueling machine of ableism.

              Words have the power to heal and the power to mar; the idea of having inclusive language means updating our syntax to void words that could be used to cause harm and create isolation for those who are disabled in the ways of being blind, deaf, or dumb. Being blind, you can not see or are visually impaired; being deaf means you can not hear, and in turn, you are hearing impaired, and being dumb means, you cannot speak. Why are these disabilities used to insult or mar the general populous, is this used to make someone feel lesser then? The answer is yes, but using a disability as an insult means we are only fueling the problem, not addressing it or changing it.

              Being treated lesser has taught me to stand up for myself; it has helped me find my voice through the written word. I am passionate about changing the social stigma around disabled people. I may be disabled, but I am not dead; I am a student, a volunteer, a person who has a message to be heard, and I will not quiet myself for anyone’s comfort. Change happens when we get uncomfortable, and we learn things.

Published by Ari Villain

Artist and writer. Living with chronic illness and writing about it. I have survived two cancers, I live with hyperadrenergic postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, ehlers-danlos syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome, jaundice, esophagus dysmotility, Chilblains, Raynaud's, migraines, asthma, and more. I have mental health problems which I am not ashamed of, I have CPTSD, anxiety, and depression. My medical history is extensive, but I will continue moving forward. I have hope to help others not feel isolated alone, and forgotten by an ableist society.

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