Module 4: Ableism and Accessibility
Welcome to Module 4: Ableism and Accessibility!
This module will introduce learners to key concepts related to accessibility and their interrelationships, including ableism, models of disability, accommodations, self-advocacy, and allyship. These are not abstractions; they are part of the lived experience of persons with disabilities and are central to public discourses and social movements that challenge barriers to access learning, employment and, more broadly, what it means to be human. These concepts are also important for persons without disabilities. Most people can be affected by disability at some point in their lives – either directly as a result of accidents or illness or indirectly as caregivers or emotional supports. Even more broadly, non-disabled persons contribute to the stigmatization and discrimination of persons with disabilities and have a moral obligation to reflect on how they relate to the phenomenon of disability (Goodley 8).
The purpose of this module is to begin or deepen these reflective processes. As well as being an introduction to some concepts and theories that underpin ableism within the context of society, with a focus on the workplace environment. You’ll explore root causes, real impacts, and practical ways that you can responsibly take action against it.
*Note that this module is not an exhaustive learning material. The needs and issues within the community differ amongst the identities and are complex. This short module does not have the entire scope to address all of them. However, it is the first few steps to an ongoing journey, as it is a source that will provide relevant resources and knowledge with a focus on the context of employment. It is important to continue the unlearning and learning of damaging discourses that perpetuate the marginalization of people who belong to or have intersected identities within the disability community.
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Describe, compare and critique models of disability, and how each reinforces, resists, disrupts and/or transgresses ableism and ableist language, images, narratives and actions.
- Describe educational and workplace accommodations and processes and the inherent tension associated with disclosure of disabilities and the duty to accommodate.
- Recognize the legal rights based on international, national and provincial laws and standards concerning persons with disabilities and the implications of an employer’s duty to accommodate.
- Demonstrate the centrality of self-advocacy and embed it within an ecological approach that identifies factors external to the individual.
- Describe practical steps for allies to play a role in advancing social inclusion and equity in higher education and the workplace.
Featuring Conversations With Heather Willis, Ryerson Accessibility Coordinator of the OVPECI
A Word on Language
Before proceeding, it is important to note that this module adopts person-first language over identity-first language that defines a person mainly with the disability. Person-first language, such as “a person with a visual impairment,” implies the visual impairment is one of multiple dimensions that informs a person’s identity and capabilities. In contrast, “a visually impaired person” tightly couples a person’s identity with their impairment. Language can structure social and economic relations by essentializing persons, lowering expectations, and guiding behaviours based on stereotypes (Titchkosky 126-127). At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that there is no consensus around terminology.
Some suggest that person-first language, while well-intentioned, is not problem-free or commonplace. Except for “persons of colour,” people do not typically use person-first language. For example, we say “a male” rather than “a person who is male.” In other words, identities often come first because they are salient and important. In the same way, some persons with disabilities prefer to be called disabled, and self-identify as a “paraplegic person.” Some in the deaf community prefer to be called Deaf, with a capital “D.” The uppercase “D” signifies that deafness is not a disability. Rather, it is the shared identity of a linguistic-cultural group similar to being English, French, and so on. From this perspective, identity-first language is a signifier that disability is an important marker of a person/group’s sense of self and being (Dunn & Andrews 261).