On the Receiving End of Ableism

by | Essays

My son and I have been on the receiving end of ableist remarks throughout his lifetime.


Most of it is well-intentioned and meant to be encouraging.


These seemingly-benign comments are a result of internalized ableism which is why it’s hard to identify the harm caused:

“God never gives you what you can’t handle.”⁣

“You’re an inspiration.”⁣

“Your son inspires me.”⁣

“I don’t know how you do it.”⁣

“I could never do what you do.”⁣

Then, there’s the direct mention of the disability itself:⁣

“I just wish he could walk; then it would be easier for you.”⁣

“If only he could speak; then it would be easier for you.”⁣

“I only wish he were normal.”⁣

“My neighbor has an excellent physical therapist; her daughter walks now.”⁣

“Poor him.”⁣

“Poor you.”⁣

Then, more comments meant to be supportive but are detrimental to a parent:⁣

“Didn’t you do screening before birth?”⁣

“He’s not the first; he won’t be the last.”⁣

“He’s not healthy; shouldn’t you mentally prepare for the worst?”⁣

Ableism dangerously meshes with eugenics whose sole purpose is to make all humans alike—eliminating the reproduction of humans with “defects.”

Each of the comments narrated the story that my son isn’t good enough to be accepted as he is, and that he’s a burden on me. If only he were different.⁣

I internalized these beliefs myself until I understood that life is hard for my son because the world is not accessible, not because he’s disabled.


If the world were easier to navigate, our challenges would be greatly reduced.⁣

What would our words be, what would our relationships be if nobody deemed themselves superior to anyone else?

I wonder how parents would be handed a diagnosis if doctors weren’t prejudiced?

How would a mother receive her child after a diagnosis?

How different would life be if the world were accessible and inclusive and loving?

Would we stop fixating on the limitations and see the beauty in all people?⁣


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