Ableism robbed my son of the celebratory joy of his birth.
My reaction to his diagnosis was steeped in ableism. It was handed to me in an ableist institution by ableist professionals who set us up with months-worth of ableist correctional practices. By the time I left the hospital, my head was spinning in grief instead of happiness.
From the tone in the pediatrician’s voice to the look in the nurse’s eyes, to the words spoken by the geneticist, I now understand it would have taken a woman in a suit of armor to have the hazards of ableism bounce off her in a vulnerable moment.
Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against disabled individuals in favor of non-disabled people.
Systemic ableism is how the world is set-up for non-disabled people to thrive and succeed while disabled people are left behind and blatantly held back. It’s the way institutions are structured, how the workforce is created, and the way commercial places are designed.
It’s also in the way disabled people are regarded as less than capable, unsightly, and a burden to society. It’s why the hospital saw my son as an immediate problem to solve rather than the sweet boy I profoundly love.
Internalized ableism is a result of systemic ableism.
The microaggressions against the disabled community are often subtle; individuals absorb them as acceptable.
It’s evident in the words we speak to and about disabled people, how we interact with them, how they are raised and educated, and the way they are employed and compensated. It’s the way we pity a mother having just given birth to a child newly diagnosed with a syndrome.
Ableism is multilayered.
Its history is rooted in white supremacy, and it’s why racism is necessary to dismantle.
My work begins with myself, my son, and the people directly involved with him. Who better than an outraged mother stripped of the birth experience she and her baby deserved to unravel the damage done to entire communities.
I’m just getting started.