Self-advocates and allies fight ableism. The first piece of advice I will give you is to avoid assumptions. The first step to avoid prejudice is to say I do not know and learn from others to understand. There are visible, those you can see, and invisible disabilities, those that cannot be seen, so it is important to trust people who identify as being disabled. . This will make you a good member of the disabled community. Ways to educate yourself about the disability community include trusted facts in the community, friends, and good references. Knowledge is a good weapon against ableism.
Knowledge and being willing to ask questions can make you a good advocate for yourself and others while assumptions hurt everyone in the disabled community. Pity and lowered expectations can lead to insincere praise and may even make someone feel comfortable in a segregated setting. This leads to internalized ableism or looking at your own disability negatively as through the eyes of ableism. In this case an ally or self- advocate is needed to remind the person that disability is a natural and beautiful part of who we are. By doing this you are putting a friend on the path to disability pride which is being a good advocate.
Prejudice like ableism are multi layered and sometimes hidden but with the right attitude it can be fought. Even when it is obvious and barriers are being ignored with the belief that those people do not come here. In all cases we have allies and self-advocates to battle ableism by working towards authentic relationships that grow in a philosophical belief and commitment to inclusion.
F. Paul Miller
Community Inclusion Specialist
Michigan Disability Rights Coalition