Ableism, in a nutshell, is discrimination against disabled people. And, yes, it does exist, despite the fact that one in four people in United States has a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Case in point, on Sunday, the hashtag #YouMightBeAbleistIf began to trend on Twitter, sparking tons of responses from the disability community of everyday and casual instances of ableism they’ve experienced.
“I deal with ableism everyday on and off line,” said Tiara Simmons Mercius, 36, a disabled woman who popularized the hashtag over the weekend — after it had been used by Twitter user @soul_into_hades in 2015. “And I noticed that the disabled community spends a lot of time explaining what ableism is. So I thought having a central place where we could give examples would be helpful.”
The reason why Mercius felt it would be useful to propel disabled people’s experiences with ableism into the viral sphere is because the concept is complex and instances of it aren’t always easy to identify. The reason is because ableism is highly normalized thanks to society’s lack of understanding of (or indifference towards) disabled people’s lived experiences.
“Ableism is so threaded into our society that it can often go unnoticed or isn’t clear to begin with,” Mercius told HuffPost. “Things that are socially accepted are in fact ableist, from language to beliefs about disabled people.”
One disabled Twitter user told HuffPost that they experienced ableism after they decided to contribute to the #YouMightBeAbleistIf hashtag on Sunday, and their tweet went viral. The user, who asked to not be identified, wrote about their own experiences with abelism. The user quickly received backlash for their tweet and felt they were dismissed because they are disabled.
“The experience just got overwhelming,” they told HuffPost. “And people were taking what I said out of context or not even listening to disabled people about their own experiences.”
The backlash caused the user to mute their responses to their tweet and abandon the conversation.
“I just wasn’t able to handle it when I knew, from previous experience, for the most part it wouldn’t matter what I said or how I said it because people often don’t want to listen to disabled people.”
Yet, people who are disabled want to be heard — and understood. Here are what some users had to say using the hashtag: