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Let’s end ableism

“Today a lady, seeing my walker, offered to hold the door for me. I nodded and wrote ‘thank you’ on the writing board I carry everywhere. She began laughing. It was not a mean laugh, not even intentional, more just a nervous one that lasted the entire time of our interaction as she opened first one door than another for me – that’s a long time when someone’s laughing at you. I didn’t address her laughter, but it hurt. I just smiled, looked her confidently in the eye, ignored her giggles, and went on my way.”

My friend Jenna shared this story on social media in an effort to educate others about the ableism she experiences on a regular basis. Jenna uses a walker, wheelchair and devices that help her to communicate without talking, such as a writing board.

Most people are familiar with the issues of racism or sexism and many organizations offer training to help minimize discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex or gender. But far fewer people are familiar with the term ableism and what it means. For people living with a disability, ableist attitudes and systems are extremely hurtful. They challenge the individual’s personal rights and freedoms.

Ableism is:

  • attitudes, actions, and/or circumstances that devalue people because they have a disability or are perceived as having a disability.
  • Intentional or unintentional discrimination or oppression of disabled individuals.
  • Anything that positions a person without a disability over a person with a disability, solely based on their differences in ability.
  • Attitudes, actions or systems that consider a person with a disability as inferior.

Within the Disability Ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, we want to expand our understanding of ableism as we work to eliminate it. We invite you to join the conversation. Let’s end #AbleismAtChurch by participating in a training event on August 11 and 12, 2022 from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM EST (via Zoom) on hosting a Disability Awareness Sunday at your church that focuses on eliminating ableism.

This article is made possible through a partnership with CRC Ministries within Canada.


  • Becky Jones

    Becky Jones is a Volunteer and Communication Specialist for both CRCNA Disability Concerns and Safe Church Ministry.

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