Tag Archives: disablism

Fighting institutional disablism

We should all have been shocked and embarrassed by the news that an Israeli minister was unable to access COP26 on Monday because she was in a wheelchair. This was followed by an attempt at victim blaming by Environment Secretary George Eustice who said that she should have told them about her access needs in advance. The Prime Minister eventually apologised, but used weaselly terms like “confusion” and “regrettable incident”.

The Black Lives Matter movement has alerted us all to the concepts of institutional and structural racism. They remind us that discrimination does not always result from hatred or prejudice, or even unconscious bias, on the part of an individual, but can sometimes be the result of built-in and unintentional practices within organisations, and indeed within society itself. We need to take on the same thinking when discussing the needs of people with disabilities.

Institutional and structural disablism can be very evident to those who experience it, but invisible to those who don’t.

Let me give you a small example. My husband has a rare neurological condition which affects his mobility and balance, amongst other things. He uses a walking stick but doesn’t need a wheelchair. We like to go out for short walks in the local parks and commons, and we are always on the look-out for somewhere to sit halfway through. We do find a number of seats but too often they are benches without backs and arms – which means my husband can’t get up from them. So the people who could benefit most from the provision of seating are often unable to use them.

The diagram of a person in a wheelchair is the universally understood icon for provision for disabled people – it’s seen on parking spaces, toilets, entrances and exit buttons. And indeed a wheelchair is the most visible sign of disability.  So when planners and designers are thinking about disabled provision they usually focus on wheelchair accessibility. But of course, most disabilities, like my husband’s, are less visible, with the result that places can be far less accessible than they should be.

Posted in Op-eds | 10 Comments

Blogging Against Disablism Day


As well a day for dancing around maypoles or celebrating workers and labour, the first of May is Blogging Against Disablism Day.

As explained on the blog of the person who started it, “This is the day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism).  In this way, we hope to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.”

There’s an example of disablism in a recent Lib Dem Voice article by Henry Foulds. He says he was told “by a senior activist that I should crop my cane from campaign photos or somehow hide it, I was horrified. I stumbled over my response and changed the subject. I’ve since explained to them that disability is nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.”

Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Simon McGrath
    @oliver - you are right that inheritance tax is very unpopular. Replacing it with a much higher rate of tax that applies not just when people die would seem un...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Martin Till people recognise to abort for cleft palate and Downs is a selection, therefore related to eugenics, those who oppose these reasons, and like me,...
  • Jon Ball
    I’d tend to favour a higher starting rate of UBI but making sure that everyone can afford food without demeaningly applying for access to food banks, which Na...
  • Oliver Craven
    @Simon McGrath Given we're replacing the very unpopular inheritance tax, I don't think it would be as hard a sell as you propose. Additionally, who is giving...
  • James Baillie
    The other thing that confuses me a bit with for example Simon's comment above is that increasing targeted payments to the worst off, to produce an equivalent ef...