Linguistic Ableism

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Linguistic Ableism

“Ableism is not a list of bad words. Language is one tool of an oppressive system. Being aware of language—for those of us who have the privilege of being able to change our language—can help us understand how pervasive ableism is. Ableism is systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than. Ableism is violence.” —Lydia X.Z. Brown

Lydia smiles and tilts their head slightly to the side, looking confidently at the camera. They are a young-ish East Asian person with a streak of teal in their short black hair, wearing glasses, a cobalt blue jacket and navy tie, with a blue copper wall behind them. Photo by Sarah Tundermann

Excerpt from: Violence in Language: Circling Back to Linguistic Ableism by Lydia X.Z. Brown*

Linguistic ableism:
a) is part of an entire system of ableism, and doesn’t exist simply by itself,
b) signifies how deeply ableist our societies and cultures are by how common and accepted ableism is in language,
c) reinforces and perpetuates ableist social norms that normalize violence and abuse against disabled people,
d) actively creates less safe spaces by re-traumatizing disabled people, and
e) uses ableism to perpetuate other forms of oppression.

*Read the entire article at (2014). For more from Lydia X.Z. Brown including a list of generally ableist terms and phrases visit (updated 2022).

DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.


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