Ableism or the systematic discrimination of people with disabilities is a form of oppression that is often given little attention. Ableism, like other forms of oppression, occurs at individual (i.e. individual prejudices and biases), cultural (societal view that people with disabilities are scary, broken, pitiful, dumb, etc.) and institutional (i.e. employment, education, and housing discrimination) levels. We selected the following video clip to introduce the topic of ableism and encourage discussion about the number of issues raised. The video clip highlights how commonly used negative labels continue to be incredibly damaging and oppressive to people with disabilities. We invite you to help deconstruct and challenge these labels through ongoing learning and dialogue.
Video Clip

Questions to consider:

  • What is your reaction to the video clip? What stood out for you?
  • What stereotypes, prejudices and biases do individuals have towards people with disabilities?
  • In what ways are people with disabilities discriminated against in employment? Education? Housing?
  • Were you aware of the statics shared (e.g. High School graduation rates for students with disabilities is 57%, 72% of people with disabilities are unemployed, those that are employed earn an income that is half the national average)? Do the statistics surprise you?
  • What ableist viewpoints and practices at various levels (individual, institutional, and cultural) contribute to such problematic statistics?

Discussion Questions


  • What social historical factors play into the construction of disabilities?
  • What are the primary principles of Universal Design and how can these be applied to various educational contexts?
  • How have people with disabilities been marginalized from mainstream society during historical and contemporary times?
  • What feelings do you experience when you see a person with a visible disability (e.g. wheelchair user, person who is blind)?
  • How do you think your reactions to people with disabilities affect people with disabilities?


  • What are the similarities and differences between mobility impairments, hearing impairments, and cognitive disabilities?
  • What have you learned from reading the personal narrative about people with differing disabilities?

Next Steps

  • What are the individual, cultural, and institutional changes that can create a more inclusive society?
  • Based upon the readings within this chapter, how might you see yourself advocating for change?

Next Steps

  • Equity and Excellence in Higher Education: Universal Course Design (Syllabi, Tutorials, Strategies, Resources, etc.)

  • Removing Bias in Language Guidelines for Non-Handicapping Language in APA Journals Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology

Further Resources

Helpful Websites for Students with Learning Disabilities - Compiled by Monica Dauphinais

Print Resources

Online Resources

Additional Disability Web Links