Disablism: The discrimination, abuse and injustice experienced by disabled people because they have impairments.

Equality, human rights and anti-discrimination legislation provides inconsistent support for disabled people. While the introduction of anti-discrimination and related legislation has brought about some legal protections for disabled people, actual enforcement has produced variable results.   

What are the implications?

  • There is poor availability of useful ‘disability rights’ information and infrastructure support.  Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) are struggling to articulate ‘rights’ based arguments or obtain funds needed for advocacy work. 
  • The monitoring and recording of ‘disablism’ data is uncoordinated and skewed towards certain areas and contexts (i.e. employment, family life, regions / localities). 
  • Hate crimes, violence and abuse (including institutional discrimination) against disabled people is on the increase but remains unreported or not challenged / prosecuted appropriately.
  • Disabled people are over represented in the criminal justice system. There is a lack of reasonable adjustments made before, during, and after interactions with police, courts and others.
  • A rise in awareness of discrimination against people with impairments previously not seen as disabled, (i.e. older people, those with addictions, or neuro diversity) means that the make up of DPO audiences are changing significantly.
  • Institutionalised disablism could be defined for the 21st century and challenged by DPOs and advocates of disability equality.   
  • Increased awareness of the different histories of disabled people, and the emergence of their culture, supports a collective identity as a social movement.

Moving Forward

  • Does your organisation talk about ‘disablism’? Does this incorporate both personal and institutional discrimination? Is it written in any of your organisational material? Can your organisation define and describe it to people easily? What does it mean to your funders?
  • Do people report ‘disablist’ incidents to you? Do you regularly monitor and collate these? What do you do with this information?  Does this include institutional issues? 
  • Do you provide information or advice about anti-discrimination legislation for disabled people? Do you have a knowledge base or access to resources that support disabled people to make legal challenges against disablism using anti-discrimination legislation or the UN convention on the human rights of disabled people?  
  • Are you involved in any work around hate crimes against disabled people, people in the criminal justice system, or other areas that tackle disablism?  Do you have a strategy in place to fund and sustain this work? 
  • Do you work in partnership with organisations that are involved with other ‘diverse’ persons that may be tackling impairment and disablism issues?

Want to know more?

Wikipedia entry for Ableism and Disablism

Published by: University of Essex

Date: 2006

Format: PDF

What is it? A paper examining the implications of living in an increasingly 24/7 society.

Demos 2006 ‘Disablism’ report

Published by: Demos

Date: 2006

Format: Web

What is it? An article drawing on interviews with disabled people and arguing that instead of equality, we need to focus on what disabled people can do, rather than what they can't.

How useful is this? Very in depth article with case studies to illustrate the barriers disabled people face in society

International Disability Rights Monitor (IDRM)

Published by: Demos

Date: Ongoing

Format: Web

What is it? Website of an international grass-roots research project documenting and assess the status of people living with disabilities worldwide.

How useful is this? Website of organisation specialising in fighting dsabled discrimination.

We must protect disabled people against this wave of barbaric and hateful crimes

Published by: Deborah Orr in The Independent

Date: 30th January 2008

Format: Web

What is it? An article looking at recent cases of disabled hate crimes.

United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council (UKDPC)

Published by: United Kingdom Disabled Peoples Council (UKDPC)

Date: Ongoing

Format: Web

What is it? UK based charity website which pulls together news and articles of interest to people involved in the disability sector.

Last updated at 10:41 Thu 13/Jan/11.


How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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