Internalized Ableism

by Maria R. Palacios


Internalized ableism is

believing the lies we have been told about our bodies,

believing that nobody will love us or want us,

believing we are damaged

and broken

because others have said we are.


Internalized ableism is

negating ourselves the right to say no,

denying ourselves the right to say yes

or saying yes when we should say no,

or saying no when we should say yes

because we’ve been made afraid to trust



Internalized ableism is

the thick extra layer of skin we grow

in order to not get wounded

by the voices that say we’re imperfect, and worthless

and undesirable.


It is staying silent

to comments made without thinking

or made while thinking it’s ok

because we believe them too.

Internalized ableism is

allowing others to define our truths

and explaining our bodies

as an apology….as a mistake.

It is that little voice inside our heads

negating things we want to yell out, but can’t

because our inner cripple is not yet liberated.


Internalized ableism is

focusing on walking again,

or seeing again,

or being able-bodied again while throwing away

a perfectly livable life because we’ve been led to believe

our lives as disabled people have no worth unless they’re attached

to an able-bodied goal, or an able-bodied dream.


Internalized ableism is

refusing to see our lives as lovable and powerful

and beautiful,  and painting our disabled lives

with an able-bodied brush.


Internalized ableism is

being in a rush to prove ourselves as nondisabled

and judging those whose disabilities can’t be

as well disguised, or whose bodies can’t wear

the outfits of “normality” disabled people must wear

in order to fit in,


It is

judging other disabled people for not working or for not living

the able-bodied lies that push us to try to be

“normal”.  Believing that if we can work, every disabled person can work,

If we drive,

every disabled person can drive.

Internalized ableism is

wearing our invented able-bodied privilege

as a badge of inspiration while justifying the oppression

of others like us,

and enjoying the freedom given to us by the advocacy of crips who carry the burden of our shame.


Internalized ableism is

not recognizing that independence

is something many disabled people are still fighting for,

or not recognizing when our rights are being wronged

because, deep down, we are convinced

others know better

about what’s good for us.


Internalized ableism is

not being outraged about the invasion

of our disabled lives,

allowing able-bodied people

to make choices for us….choices

we are capable of making ourselves,


we have the right to make.


Internalized ableism is

believing that our bodies

are incapable of pleasure,

allowing others to define how we should define


because many people believe

broken bodies don’t feel

broken bodies don’t give,

broken minds don’t understand





Internalized ableism is

denying our own  sexuality,

or turning able-bodied lovers into heroes for sleeping with us

because sex with a disabled person is some sort of sacrifice,

something that deserves respect

or an Amen

because sex with a cripple is got to earn you some heaven brownie points

even at the risk of sin.


Internalized ableism is

body shaming,

crip shaming,

using disability as a bad word,

using disability as a double edge sword

that cuts deep into our own fears.


Internalized ableism is

holding back the tears

that would allow us to heal,

accepting other people’s definition of beauty

and referring to our bodies

in a language not reflective of love.

It is

not knowing how to love our differences,

not recognizing our uniqueness

as the one thing that makes us whole

while believing that wholeness must always equal able-bodiedness,

must always mean going back to pre-disabled form

because that’s the norm and nothing else will do.  Otherwise

we have

no value, no purpose,

no reason to live.


Internalized ableism is

seeing disability as something

we always have to overcome.

It is

becoming passive witnesses to the struggles of others like us

or saying that we’ve never been oppressed

while saying “those people” even though we’re one of them.


Internalized ableism is

labeling each other,

putting each other down,

segregating ourselves into little groups that farther label us

as we fail to recognize that, in the end,

we, really, are

fighting the same war.


Internalized ableism is

pretending that the hierarchy of self-actualization

is applicable to crips,

forgetting that in the crip hierarchy of actualization

access and inclusion

are at the base of everything

otherwise we cannot actually actualize our-selves

no matter how hard we may try.


Internalized ableism is ignoring all that

and judging other disabled people

for nor forcing themselves into outfits of social acceptance

not tailored for disabled bodies.

Internalized ableism is

believing that we have to wear them any way

because that way others can see us

as one of them

but only in our eyes

because disability

doesn’t lie.

Our crip truths are always louder

than what whatever words we use

to disguise ourselves

in the non-disabled world.


Internalized ableism is

erroneously believing that the nondisabled world

is the only world that matters.

It is

sharing our stories from a position of pity

instead of power

and believing

that we have no power

and no voice.


Internalized ableism is

accepting the myth that if we need help,

we’re helpless,

that if we can’t move our bodies

we need somebody to live our lives for us,

accepting the lie that others know more than we do

about how to feel

even though we’re the only ones who have exist

in our disabled bodies.


Internalized ableism is

feeding the lies

that portray our lives as pathetic

and empty of joy,

purposeless and void

of any value and any hope,

believing the shit we have been fed,

and turning away from the struggles of others

because we don’t want

to see ourselves



Internalized ableism is

believing that our mobility aids imprison us,

calling ourselves “wheelchair bound”, handicapped

and falling for the inspiration crap

that tells the world we are pitiful, needy, vulnerable and helpless

istead of the human potential that lives within all of us.


Internalized ableism is

accepting the medical model

as the model that defines our lives,

surrendering to the illusion

that inclusion

is something

that does not apply

to us, or something we do not



Internalized ableism is

not making our access needs known

because they have been known

to inconvenience others.

So instead we accept half-ass access

or none at all, and do so while expressing gratitude

as if our rights were half-ass rights,

as if our needs were inferior

to the needs of others.


Internalized ableism is

letting other people raise our kids

because we’ve been convinced

that we don’t have what it takes to be parents.

It is


disabled people should not be parents,

or that disabled children should not be born…..thinking

that disability

always is the worst possible outcome,

the worst possible consequence,

the most painful

punishment—something we can’t wish

on anyone.


Internalized ableism is

letting religious fanatics pray and prey over us,

and use our differences as scare tactic to explain

their version of God

as a punishing God

as a vengeful God.


Internalized ableism is

hiding our differences as much as we can,

concealing our scars,

covering our “imperfections”,

not being able to say “Disability Pride” with pride….

not feeling offended by the use of the word crip by noncrips,

allowing others to choose how to refer to us

and what language to use when doing so.


Internalized ableism is

only sharing

able-bodied pictures of ourselves

although we’ve been disabled for a while….

Not wanting to be friends

with other disabled people, reminding ourselves again

that we’re not one of them, and believing that “those people”

do have problems, but they’re not our problems

to worry about because…..well….

you know,

as long as we internalize our fears,

we can convince ourselves

they won’t come true

and live in our very own

Dis-abledbodied world where we can hide

our disabled side

until the day when, hopefully,

we realize that we have ALWAYS been


that we have ALWAYS been worthy,

and we are finally able to see ourselves

in the mirror of others whose bodies look like ours,

whose lives reflect our lives

and find beauty and hope and human potential

instead  of brokenness and fear and wasted humanity

for only when we recognize each other’s value, will our own humanity

make itself evident to ourselves

and to the world.