Accessibility and Ableism
Posted by Francis Whitehead on August 19, 2023
Today on Ability Superstore News, we will be discussing Accessibility & Ableism and how they can affect those in the disabled community.
In the past few years, accessibility has been a main focal point for those who operate venues, websites, facilities, and anywhere else a disabled person has the right to use.
More recently, ableism has been on the rise through social media, directly impacting disabled content creators.
So, in this day and age, it seems like some people could use some information on how to give those in the disabled community the proper support.
What is Accessibility?
Accessibility is the practice of making information, activities, and environments as usable (or accessible) for as many people as possible. It essentially means that those with disabilities and impairments (temporary, permanent, or situational) which can affect:
Accessibility can be integrated into many forms. For example, in venues: ramps, lifts, clear signs, and accessible seating areas can ensure all can be safely seated and watch a show.
For hotels, it can be something as simple as an accessible room with plenty of space to navigate for a disabled person.
For media, be it audiovisual or written, subtitles and/or BSL interpreters can be integrated for hard of hearing or deaf, and audio description for those with visual impairments or blind.
With the rise of social media, consumption of audiovisual and written work has greatly increased, therefore it is important for any content creator to implement these things to ensure accessibility for all.
TikTok and YouTube have helped by introducing an automatic caption feature that analyses all your spoken words, then converts them into live subtitles that appear on screen as you speak.
In the world of smartphones, the Google Pixel range has introduced a wide range of accessibility features that come standard.
One of these is called TalkBack, which reads any words that appear onscreen back to you, as well as a braille keyboard, that enables six fingers pressed on a screen to generate six-dot braille.
When recording a voice note to yourself, automatic captions previously mentioned also appear, ready as a block of copyable text. Users can also increase the font size, magnify certain areas of the screen, and enable high-contrast text for easier reading.
With this being said, it’s important to note that accessibility isn’t just for those in wheelchairs.
The features previously mentioned above can be beneficial for the elderly, those with autism or ADHD, learning difficulties, and more, and it’s important that this perception is shattered, and accessibility is integrated wherever possible.
With the proper accessibility features integrated, a person with a disability or impairment can:
- acquire the same information
- engage in the same interactions
- enjoy the same services
...in an equally effective, equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use as a person without a disability.
What is Ableism?
Ableism can be mild to severe, but regardless of the severity, each ableist action can directly affect someone in the disabled community.
Ableism can come in many forms, and sometimes people can be ableist without even realising it.
Something that has the potential to cause offence in or out of the workplace is a microaggression, such as telling someone with a disability or impairment that they “don’t look disabled”, or “don’t look autistic” etc.
Microaggressions are almost always aimed at people of a certain marginalized group, so it’s important to eliminate this by treating everyone as an equal with equal opportunities and not being ignorant or inconsiderate of those different from you.
Another example is offensive language, using outdated words that are now considered slurs to the disabled community. It’s important to not use these words even when referring to someone without a disability, as it still has the potential to upset or offend someone who does live with one.
Excluding disabled people from activities and events others enjoy can also hurt. Sometimes, this is not the fault of the people organising but rather the owners of the venue itself, as they might not have integrated the proper accessible facilities such as:
- Disabled toilets
- Accessible and spacious seating areas
- A positive, inclusive, and hospitable attitude
Despite accessibility features being integrated on social media, disabled content creators are still struggling to feel included, and this is usually due to the ignorance of other people.
A blessing and a curse of social media such as TikTok is that any video can appear in an algorithm, and anyone can leave a comment.
Which can lead to people leaving insensitive and uninformed comments, even accusing those who suffer from disabilities that they are faking their debilitating lifestyle for attention.
This can have a deep negative impact to those with disabilities, especially hidden disabilities who just want to share a social media platform with everyone else.
Research from charity Scope UK states that 68% of disabled people in North West have experienced negative attitudes in the past 5 years, and 12% said they'd been verbally abused.
This staggering statistic is why we ought to never make negative assumptions or possess a negative attitude about anyone with disabilities or impairments, and most importantly eliminate ableism in day-to-day life.
How can I eliminate Ableism and become an Ally?
Whether it be on social media, or you may know someone in your life with a disability or impairment:
- Treat those with disabilities and impairments equally, and with respect.
- Acknowledge and validate someone if they share their lived experience.
- Listen with intent, rather than listening to react.
- Educate yourself on inclusive language.
- Respect an individual's right to their identity.
- Educate yourself on accessibility and incorporate accessible features.
- Accuse, belittle, talk down, or be ignorant.
- Tell people they don't "look" disabled/autistic etc.
- Make assumptions about anyone’s abilities or limitations.
- Use offensive language or slurs.
- Show empty gestures.
- Discriminate in any way, shape, or form.
Make sure you overcome ableism not by ticking a box, or you feel like you have to, overcome it by being properly informed and showing genuine support to those with disabilities and impairments.
If you’re a video content creator, make sure you incorporate captions! If you’re a web designer, make sure you use high-contrast text!
If you own a restaurant, make sure you have accessible seating options, ramps, and disabled bathrooms!
Most importantly, if you know anyone with a disability or impairment in your life, make sure you remember the do’s and don’t’s.
Get in Touch
Do you have any experiences with accessibility or ableism? Ability Superstore would love to know. If you have any questions or inquiries, please do get in touch. We will be more than happy to help!