In my previous post I wrote about children with disabilities being the most exposed and vulnerable group in the world. I talked about the widespread violation of even their most basic rights, their marginalisation and exclusion from mainstream society and opportunities.

The natural question that flows from the dire circumstances of children with disabilities and the often insurmountable barriers they have to face, is why. Why are disabled children relegated to a status of inferiority because of inequality and having to live on the periphary of society, prevented from exercising their rights and excluded from opportunities and services essential for healthy living, nurturing and development?

Admittedly, multiple factors play a role in this status quo, but their is a root cause, a primary reason for the state of the world’s disabled children.


This root cause is disablism (also called ablism and ableism) in society. Disablism is prejudice and discrimination against persons with disabilities.


Disablism is pervasive in society and there is ample empirical evidence to support this assertion. Strangely enough, however, the word disablism and its synonyms are not commonly used and relatively unknown compared to other words depicting discrimination, like racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and xenophobia.

I have asked myself why this word, which should be a key term in disability terminology and integral to the disability discourse, is so seldom used and relatively unknown.
Why is the term disablism not part of the common vocabulary in society, like racism and sexism? Why is the word swept under the carpet while disability discrimination is a root cause of all the issues we address and concern ourselves with in respect of persons and children with disabilities, such as inaccessibility, exclusion, marginalisation, disability rights violations, the lack of reasonable accommodation, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities and various other inequalities? In fact, disablism is at the heart of the existence of disability organisations, government structures, national policies and internatiuonal treaties to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

But we don’t say the word. We don’t tackle disablism head-on, soft soaping disability discrimination (disablism) by focusing on its symptoms, like inaccessibility and exclusion. We quite correctly promote disability rights, but neglect to confront society with its disablist attitudes and behaviours.

So why is the word disablism not on the tongues of people like the words racism and sexism are? Can it be that society is in denial? I mean: “No, discriminating against poor disabled people? Never!”

Should we not give more prominence to and acknowledge the reality of disablism in public education, advocacy and disability training? Should we not have anti-disablism media campaigns, courses and the like?

Disablism. Say the word! Call it by its name! Speak out about it so people can reflect on disablist attitudes and behaviours that might be present within them. 

I am convinced that if we can achieve significantly less disablism in society, a better life for children with disabilities will automatically follow.




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