What is Ableism? Learn How to Recognize Prejudice Against Seniors with Disabilities

Senior in a wheelchair talking with daughter and grand children

Fight ableism and use these tips to help promote inclusion and equality for seniors with disabilities.

What’s your first thought when you see an individual in a wheelchair? Do you identify that person as less-than, someone in need of being fixed? Do you assume they need special treatment, as though a physical disability affects intelligence as well? How does your thinking shift to see someone standing upright, without the need for a wheelchair; would you think they were better-abled than the wheelchair-bound senior? 

These are tough questions that require honest answers if we are to understand and respond accordingly to hidden disabilities and ableism.  

What Is Ableism? 

Ableism is identified as “the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.” It leads to harmful stereotypes and misconceptions. 

The Two Sides to the Disability Coin 

Those with visible disabilities encounter ableism in a variety of ways: exclusion from places that are inaccessible, being spoken down to or asked invasive questions, having to wait to use an accessible restroom stall while in use by a person who could be using a standard stall, etc. Conversely, there are numerous disabilities that aren’t as easily noticeable (for example, hearing impairments, Alzheimer’s disease, or a heart condition), accounting for as many as 80% of the disabled population. These people may have their concerns minimized and need to fight harder to get any accommodations needed.  

Whether or not a disability is apparent or hidden, there are steps we can all take to promote inclusion and equality: 

  • Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. Say hello. Look them in the eye. Engage them in a conversation if they welcome the social interaction.  
  • Never speak over or around the individual, addressing a caregiver first. Speak directly to the individual, and if help with conversing is needed, the caregiver can then step in. Remember that the person is an adult, and should always be spoken to as such. 
  • Avoid trying to think for the individual or impose your help. Offer assistance in an open-ended manner if it seems needed, giving them the option to let you know if they would like your help or not. 

At CareWorks Health Services, we’re committed to treating each individual we serve with dignity and respect. We can help seniors with disabilities with a complete range of customized in-home care services such as: 

  • Specialized care for chronic health needs, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Discreet personal care support, for safe baths/showers, restroom use, getting dressed, etc. 
  • Help with walking and transfers 
  • Running errands such as grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions 
  • Transportation and accompaniment 
  • Companionship to brighten each day through conversations, activities, games, arts and crafts, exercise, and more 
  • Planning and preparing healthy and balanced meals and providing assistance with feeding when needed 
  • And much more 

Contact us at (949) 859-4700 to find out more and to request a free in-home consultation.