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  • Saskia Müller

What to do When Experiencing Ableism From Loved Ones

Ableism is everywhere and many people are simply unaware of it. There’s a seriously good chance that your loved ones and community members are ableist sometimes.


We are all products of a society that upholds ableist values, which are intertwined with white supremacy, capitalism, and colonisation. Consequently, it's not uncommon for the people we love to hold oppressive views.


However, it's important to recognise that growth and change are possible for everyone. One way we can contribute to positive change is by engaging in conversations when our loved ones express ableist views.


As a disabled individual, it shouldn't always fall on you to educate your non-disabled friends and family. However, there may be times when it becomes necessary for your own well-being. For non-disabled individuals, this presents an opportunity to actively support and ally with disabled communities.


Experiencing ableism from loved ones can be hurtful and challenging. Here are some steps you can take to address and navigate ableism within your relationships:


Self-Care

Prioritise self-care and emotional well-being. Recognise that you deserve respect and dignity, and take steps to protect your mental and emotional health. Engage in activities that bring you joy, seek support from understanding friends or support groups, and consider professional counselling if needed.


Educate

If your loved ones are open to learning, educate them about ableism and its impact on your life. Share your experiences, feelings, and the specific ways in which their actions or words are hurtful. Encourage them to educate themselves by providing resources, articles, or books that discuss disability awareness and inclusivity.


Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries with your loved ones regarding what behaviours or comments are unacceptable. Clearly communicate your expectations and let them know how their ableist actions or language affect you. Reinforce that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.


Open Dialogue

Engage in open and honest communication with your loved ones about ableism. Express your feelings and concerns, and encourage them to share their perspectives as well. Promote a safe and non-judgmental space for dialogue, where everyone's experiences and emotions are valued.


Seek Support

Reach out to supportive friends, disability advocacy groups, or online communities where you can connect with others who have similar experiences. Sharing your challenges and seeking advice from those who understand can provide validation and guidance.


Advocate for Yourself

Stand up for yourself and assert your rights. Clearly communicate your needs and accommodations, and advocate for equal treatment. If necessary, seek legal advice or consult with disability rights organisations that can provide guidance and support.


Choose Your Battles

Not every situation may be worth engaging in a lengthy discussion or confrontation. Assess the circumstances and consider if it's more productive to educate and address ableism, or to prioritise your well-being by disengaging from harmful interactions.


Surround Yourself with Supportive People

Foster relationships with individuals who understand and respect you for who you are. Surround yourself with supportive friends, allies, and mentors who uplift and empower you.


Professional Mediation

In some cases, involving a neutral third party, such as a therapist or mediator, can help facilitate constructive conversations and resolution. They can provide guidance, ensure fair communication, and assist in finding common ground.



 

As a disabled person, I frequently find myself exhausted by the emotional labour required simply to navigate this world. This exhaustion is particularly heightened when I constantly have to educate others about ableism and encourage them to examine their own ableist beliefs.


Having non-disabled allies and community members take on these discussions with their friends and family significantly eases the burden in my life. It is a tangible action that anyone can take to be a compassionate ally to the disability community. Moreover, it benefits all of us as we strive toward an inclusive, accessible society that is free from the constraints of ableism.


Remember that addressing ableism with loved ones is a journey that may take time and effort. Trust yourself and surround yourself with individuals who uplift and support you, as you deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality.

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