Ableism is a term used to signify discrimination against those with disabilities. The other names used synonymously include physicalism, disability discrimination or handicapism. Ableism indicates a negative attitude and prejudice towards people having physical or mental disabilities. Ableism should be done away with as it is detrimental to the diverse growth of the society. People with disability should be accepted in mainstream society and be respected for their individuality.
Ableism can affect people belonging to any age group or social strata. Ableism takes it for granted that people with disabilities are not normal and cannot be equal to the normal people of the society. People with disabilities feel socially discriminated as they feel excluded from the mainstream society. They are identified more with their disability rather than their individual personality. The concept of Ableism arises due to the accepted norm that society is made of able-bodied people and hence people with disabilities must strive to overcome their shortcomings to reach the acceptable norm.
Society stereotypes people as disabled when they typically suffer from some form of physical or mental handicap apart from some life-changing illnesses. This includes those with hearing and visual impairment, those who use equipment meant for the handicapped to enable mobility, people having problems with speech or motor coordination and those suffering from any congenital abnormalities. Apart from physical handicaps, Ableism can affect people suffering from illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, depression, epilepsy, hemophilia, AIDS, attention-deficit disorders, migraines and so on.
One has to understand the needs of a differently-abled person and be more sensitive to his requirements. It helps to be patient with such people as they may take more time in accomplishing routine tasks. At times it would be good to encourage the person to do things on his own instead of doing it for him. Try to treat the person in a normal way without showing any sign of social condescension. What the differently-abled person requires is your friendship, time and some activity which can engage both of you in a fulfilling manner.
Ableism sets the society backwards and should not be allowed to take root in the first place. The best way to reduce Ableism would be by educating people and creating awareness about the coexistence of different kinds of people in society. Any myths associated with disabilities should be eradicated through educative programs. People should be made aware that each person is unique with his own set of strength and weakness. To begin with children with disabilities need to be educated in normal classrooms so that others can interact and cultivate friendship in the normal way. This would help in curbing any fear, myths or ignorance surrounding the disability of a person. It would help in fostering an atmosphere of understanding about the different needs of people. Alternatively, there are a number of organizations that deal exclusively with disabled persons. Getting involved with such organizations is an enriching learning experience by itself.