Ableism is

when you say that I don’t act


and expect me to take that

as a compliment.

Ableism is

when you assume

that I’m automatically strong

and courageous

simply because I’m disabled.

Ableism is

when my blindness becomes

your darkness…

when you wear my scars

in your sleeve

and pretend to understand

my truths.

Ableism is

when you try to heal me,

and fix me

and promise me that  I will walk,

or see, or hear

or  that I will be

everything I was really meant to be…

one day

in heaven.

Ableism is

believing that heaven

is an non-disabled place

where broken bodies finally

become whole.

Ableism is

when “whole”

is a word reserved

for the non-disabled, or

when you say that I’m beautiful

despite my differences,

and fail to recognize that I’m beautiful

because of them.

Ableism is

when you leave us to ripen

and rot

hanging from the vine

because you refuse to bite into our fruit.

Ableism is the fruit

of your fears.

Ableism is

when you think “sexy”

is not a word that applies to me.

Ableism is

you bragging about your independence

while you watch me struggle

to get free.

Ableism is

how free

you feel

to assume.

Ableism is

when you assume

I’m single….when you assume

I’m a virgin,

when you assume I hate my body

because in your narrow mind

how could I not?

Ableism is

when your discomfort becomes

a bigger barrier

than a flight of stairs.

Ableism is

when parents yank their kids away

and tell them not to stare

automatically teaching them

that disability

is a dirty word.

Ableism is

when you tell me how inspiring it is

to watch me work or watch me cook.

Ableism is

when you can’t look

at my scars

without cringing or feeling

like you have to say you’re sorry…

or like you owe me an apology

for my body

because I’m such a monster,

and your able-bodiedness almost

makes you feel guilty, and I say almost

because if it had,

you would not be so quick

to push me out of your mind with a

“Thank God it’s not me” curling

under your tongue like a snake.

Ableism is

when you make

plans that do not include

accessible venues, accessible spaces

so it becomes easier to erase me

from your list.

Ableism is

when you can pretend

disabled people don’t exist.

Ableism is

not being able to join your schoolmates

in the class picture or school play

because there is no ramp

to the stage.

Ableism is

our disabled lives


by nondisabled actors.

Ableism is nondisabled actors

who think they totally understand our struggles

because they got to play our role.

Ableism is

having to roll

on inaccessible sidewalks

because I have no choice.

Ableism is

the fact that I have no choice,

but you do.

Ableism is

when disabled parents

are told they should not be parents.

Ableism is

when you feel

that your baby is not safe with me,

or when you pat me on the head

as if I were a kid

and call me


Ableism is

when my service dog

gets kicked off the plane

because nondisabled passengers


Ableism is when I ask you for help

and you feel entitled

to choose for me.

Ableism is

nodding your head in understanding

instead of admitting

that you don’t have a clue what I said.

Ableism is

the fact that you’re afraid

to tell the truth.

Ableism is

making heroes out of people

who take disabled kids to the prom

and never talk to them again because

that one “good deed”

is good for at least ten years

if not a lifetime.

Ableism is

a lifetime of isolation,

a lifetime of segregation

a lifetime

of untold stories

of  “Once upon a time

there was a cripple who could”

and for every cripple that could

there was and is an able-bodied person

who should

but doesn’t .

Ableism is

the fact that it doesn’t

matter because

unless you’re the one being oppressed,

unless it’s YOUR body

that fails,

it’s not YOUR problem

and you can push it away.

Out of sight,

out of mind.

Ableism is

leaving behind

the imperfect ones,

the ones that slow you down,

the ones that embarrass you.

Ableism is

the fact that we can embarrass you

just by siting in the same room

and breathing

the same air.

Ableism is

when you say it’s not fair

that I don’t have to wait in line.

Ableism is

thinking that I’m out of line

for demanding human rights.

Ableism is

when you say how lucky I am

that I get to sit all the time

while your poor able-bodied feet

get tired.

Ableism is you saying that, but deep down

feeling grateful you’re not me.

Ableism is

the way media portrays us

as either objects of pity

or inspiration.

Ableism is



Ableism is when you say

disabled people should not do porn

because our bodies

are not something

anyone would want to see


Ableism is

your naked


peeking through the keyhole

of your closet.

Ableism is

how you want to lock us in the closet

and how you believe that giving us new labels

like physically challenged

and differently abled

is no longer labeling us.

Ableism is

making buses accessible

but not the streets leading

to the bus stop.

Ableism is

how the bus stop becomes

like a Forrest Gimp story

always waiting to be told.

Ableism is

when not even the back of the bus

was available to us

in the unwritten pages of our history

and how we have to become

our own crip version of Rosa Parks




to this day.

Ableism is

when you say that if God hasn’t healed me,

it is only because I

don’t have enough faith.

Ableism is

how your faith considers me

a punishment from God,

or how you try to pray

my differences away

as if they were demons.

Ableism is

the demons of your ignorance.

Ableism is

having accessible parking,

but denying us access

to the door.

Ableism is

how the Real Estate industry

continues building inaccessible homes

and acting as if eliminating a step

would be an eyesore, an offence,

a code violation.

Ableism is

the violation of our rights

done so quietly and shoving us under the rug.

Ableism is

when you tell ableist jokes

and expect me to think they’re funny.

Ableism is

how your version of funny

becomes my version of painful.

Ableism is how the rich play monopoly

with real properties

and make none of them

affordable or accessible.

Ableism is

when words like affordable

and accessible

are too good to be true.

Ableism is

saying there are no qualified

disabled applicants.

What you mean to say is:

Disabled people who can pass as nondisabled

are hard to find.

Ableism is

your ability to find

reasons to push us aside

to keeps us in cages,

leave our struggles

out of the history pages….

pretend we never


Ableism is

when you say I’m the only disabled friend

you’ve ever had.

Ableism is

when you say that and still don’t understand

why we feel


Ableism is

when you think I don’t have a disability

because you can’t see it.

Ableism is

expecting me to always be brave

like Pollyanna.

Ableism is

thinking that if I’m in a bad mood,

it must be

because I’m disabled, and I must have

a “chip on my shoulder”.

Ableism is

expecting me to shoulder

your ableist beliefs

because the weight of my differences

are too heavy for you

to carry.

Ableism is

me having to carry

the guilt you force upon me.

Ableism is

when you think Autism

equals stupid,

and when stupid becomes

just another word to describe those like me.

Ableism is

when you use my hearing child

to interpret for you.

Ableism is

when I find myself

forced to use my hearing child

to interpret

for me.

Ableism is

when you say it’s not your fault

that I’m disabled,

but act as if it were mine.

Ableism is

always having to blame someone.

Ableism is

asking my friends

what I would like to order

because you fear not being able

to communicate with me.

Ableism is

the fact that you don’t even try.

Ableism is

when your disabled child

is the only one

that didn’t get invited

to the party.

Ableism is

when a political party

treats disability

as a mockery of our struggles.

Ableism is

when cops see my disability

as a threat.

Ableism is when it’s dangerous

just to be out

while cripple.

Ableism is

calling my needs “special”

and then ignoring them.

Ableism is

believing I need to be fixed.

Ableism is


refusing to fix

what’s really


Ableism is

painting our lives

like a tragic story.

Ableism is

our story

told by nondisabled voices


through a nondisabled lens.

Ableism is


feeling like I should be grateful

for the ramps and the parking spaces

as if access

was not a basic right.

Ableism is

when my basic rights

are considered

a burden.

Ableism is

when you force unsolicited help upon me

because, to you, it seemed

like I needed it.

Ableism is

you thinking that my asking for help

gives you the right

to decide

for me.

Ableism is

when a relationship with me

is something you keep from your friends.

Ableism is

when you have sex with me

out of curiosity.

Ableism is

when your curiosity invades my space…

when your curiosity hurts

when your curiosity kills

my cat

and leaves me


Ableism is

making  those things essential to my survival

out of my financial reach, but call yourself

and ally

if I qualify

for the financial aid, or the loan

or the insurance premium

that would make you my friend.

Ableism is

when you pretend

to care

because you’re paid to care

but deep down

you don’t give a shit.

Ableism is

when you wish for a world

without disabled people

and you say that to me,

and expect me to agree

with you.

Ableism is

when you say that if you became disabled,

you would want to die.

Ableism is

wishing you could

help us die,

or wishing

you didn’t have to

help us live.

Ableism is


disabled people

are better off


Ableism is

when you turn your head

the other way

and say that your able-bodied privilege

is not privilege

and refuse to see

that your privilege

is the face

of my


Invite Maria R. Palacios to read this powerful piece to your disability studies class, sensitivity training or cultural awareness event.   To contact the author, send email to Subject line ABLEISM.
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