It happened when I was teaching an undergraduate seminar last week. I made a comment, and had to immediately call myself on it. It doesn't matter what the comment was, what matters is whether or not we take responsibility for our biases and how they are reflected in our thinking and language. Biases that may hurt or offend another human, unintentionally (hopefully), and unfairly. Learning to control our bias is, as one student put it, " to be more human toward another human being."


I remember the first time I heard the word ableism. I thought "What are they talking about?" I realize that, as with any form of discrimination, if we are not a member of the group being discriminated against we may just not "get it".

For example, as a woman who grew up pre-Title IX, I clearly understand sexism. I lived (and to a large degree continue to live) in a culture that marginalizes women in many direct and indirect ways. As part of that marginalized group, it's easy for me to recognize it.

When it comes to "ableism," you might think that after working for over 38 years with people who do and/or experience things differently than most of us, I would have "gotten it". Nope! I continue to be my ableist self, having to check my thinking every day. I am constantly thinking about how my (and others) assumptions about how people "should" do things is the foundation of discrimination against people with disabilities. About the things we assume about how people should get around, how they live, how they learn, read, use technology, interact with others, do yoga, participate in groups, eat, etc., etc. No matter how much I learn and work with people who experience things differently than me, my (sometimes unconscious) starting point is always how I do things. This is ableism.

None of us, myself included, will ever be perfect when it comes to eliminating our own biases. But every day I try to be a little better. Awareness is the first step, then recognition, then doing what is necessary to support change. If we spend a little more time putting ourselves in the shoes of others, we can all be a little more human toward other human beings.