10 things to know about ableist sayings.

Ainslee Hooper
Nov 16, 2020


Language matters. How we speak matters. It shapes our worlds.

I was recently listening to an interview around diversity and inclusion, and someone used a phrase which we have all heard at one time or another. It was a common phrase and one that I’ve even used. At that moment, however, it dawned on me how completely ableist and exclusionary it was.

After this, I started to examine other phrases, metaphors or sayings I was so used to hearing or saying which are equally as problematic. So here is my top 10, including the initial one mentioned.

The last 3 of this list I have used to demonstrate that ableist language can occur in many contexts.

1. “Climbing the corporate ladder.”

2. “Stairway to heaven.”

3. “Standing ovation.”

4. “Dumb things down.”

5. “Walk a mile in my shoes.”

6. “Turn a blind eye.”

7. “Standup meeting.”

8. “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

9. “I don’t see your disability.”

10. “A person who is able-bodied.”

These sayings or phrases either exclude people with disabilities or use words to describe the disability in a negative light.

Here are some tips to go by if you are unsure if you are using ableist language:

1. Is it a word that’s related to a disability?

2. Is it being used in a negative way?

3. Do I have the privilege of being able to reclaim the word?

4. Am I using the word in a reclaiming way?

Words have power. Use them wisely.

Originally posted on ainsleehooper.com.au



Ainslee Hooper

Applied Anthropologist specialising in disability inclusion.