Our Ableism Alerts give you an idea of all kinds of ‘ableist’ incidents in a university context. But what is ableism, precisely? Ableism denotes the discrimination, marginalisation, and stigmatisation of people with a physical, cognitive, and/or mental impairment.

Ableism appears in many shapes and sizes. Yvette den Brok (2005) distinguishes four types:

Cultural ableism

Cultural ableism relates to how society approaches impairment. This can denote positive or negative associations. One example is the common prejudice that people with an impairment can’t have a job.

Institutional ableism

Insitutional ableism denotes how acivities and services that are self-evident for everyone, are not accessible for people with an impairment. An example of institutional ableism is how schools, colleges, and universities are often inaccessible.

Interpersonal ableism

Interpersonal ableism covers the way in which interactions between people change due to impairment. People often treat people with impairment differently. Two examples are being stroked over the hair as an adult, or people ignoring you in a conversation because they assume that you can’t express yourself.

Internalized ableism

Internalized ableism realtes to how you might start to believe prejudices about impairment as a person with an impairment. You might believe that you are unworthy because of your impairment.

In many cases these types are intertwined. For example, if you have to work in an environment that does not accomodate you (institutional ableism), you might start to believe that you do not belong there (internalized ableism).

Below you find a video of YouTuber Jessica Kellgren-Fozard who explains what ableism is.

Jessica Kellgren-Fozard on ableism

Interested in how ableism affects academia? Read more below!