This article originally appeared in WearYourVoiceMag.com and is reprinted by permission.
Here are 21 ways that able-bodied privilege looks. Some of them are self-explanatory. Others? Well, just read on:
1. Ableist people will actually heed your call-outs about ableism: It all starts here. When you notice someone being ableist and call them out, they are more inclined to treat you as credible — especially if you’re a white cisgender person. There’s a major double-standard, because disabled folks have been working hard to fight ableism, experiencing varying degrees of ableist violence, erasure and even death. When we call someone out, we’re silenced, invalidated, victim blamed, etc. But the second an able-bodied person speaks up, they’re “revolutionary,” “progressive,” and “inclusive.” Frankly — it’s bullshit.
2. You’re able to walk, see, talk and feel.
3. You’re not pitied because of disabilities.
4. You’re not seen as unattractive or undesirable because of disabilities.
5. You’re able to keep a job: People with disabilities (PwD) wind up laid off from their jobs for a multitude of reasons. Some of these include, but are not limited to: having to take too many days off because of symptom flare-ups, missing work to go to medical appointments, general workplace discrimination and not being seen as an efficient worker. Additionally, many people quit jobs because they experience ableist micro-aggressions, their disabilities or mental illnesses aren’t taken seriously, they’re mocked for their disabilities, or their conditions got worse.
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6. People don’t constantly assume you need help or saving.
7. You’re able to perform the tasks of daily living: I don’t think many folks realize how much they take for granted the fact that they can perform tasks like bathing, grooming, hygiene, getting dressed and even going to the bathroom. There’s a large number of people with disabilities who need some degree of assistance with the tasks of daily living.
8. You don’t need a caretaker: Expanding on the previous point, another notable privilege is not requiring assistance from a home care provider. Some of us need caretakers for only a few hours a day to perform basic tasks, while others have live-in caretakers for round-the-clock care. Often these caretakers can be vital — we wouldn’t be able to thrive without them.
9. You’re not the punchline of ableist jokes.
10. You don’t make other people uncomfortable by just existing.
11. You’re able to feel safe in spaces where there are drugs and alcohol: I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. This privilege is the most under-acknowledged and invalidated by able-bodied and neurotypical people. Many folks who are addicts, alcoholics or sober folks — whether they’re in active addiction or recovery — need access to safe, sober spaces. Sober folks get shut down for needing that access because people don’t realize just how pervasive alcohol and drug imagery is.
Typically, activist, community organization and queer community events and parties arealways centered around alcohol and drugs. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing drugs or drinking, there’s usually very little access to safe spaces for sober folks and addicts. People who drink and do drugs usually think sober folks are gunning for their autonomy, when in reality, these folks just want access to a safe, non-triggering place to have fun!
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12. You’re able to drive or access public transportation.
13. You never feel inferior due to a disability or mental illness.
14. You’re able to see yourself represented in the media and pop culture: People with disabilities are underrepresented — and erased — in media and pop culture. We’ve been left out, especially folks who are visibly disabled, except for those of us who are used as props or exploited for “entertainment.” Usually when disabled characters are incorporated into stories, they’re played by able-bodied actors. Even within the body positive movement, a disproportionately small number of people with visible disabilities is represented.
15. You don’t require mobility devices.
16. Your life is seen as worth living: Many people see living with a disability as a worst-case scenario. In the mainstream, the lives of PwD aren’t seen as worth living. We’re usually viewed as tragic or the product of an accident, while able-bodied lives are viewed as whole, valuable lives that have substance and meaning.
17. You’re able to access buildings, sidewalks, parks, bathrooms, etc.
18. You don’t need help communicating (e.g. with braille or sign language).
19. You’re not made into inspiration porn: Karrie Higgins said it best in her HuffPost article: “People with disabilities are not here to inspire able [bodied] people or make them feel good about themselves. Inspiration porn not only objectifies people with disabilities by turning them into magic talismans, but it erases the very real issues many of us experience — issues for which nobody is offering accommodations…”
20. You don’t get overstimulated easily.
21. You’re not viewed as “broken.”
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. It’s just a start. But to begin to understand ableism, you need to understand the privileges that have been afforded you. Ableism is pervasive and extremely complex — it’s a shape-shifter. The capitalist society that we live in relies on ableism. If we are to move forward, checking privilege is step one.