On January 8th 2011 a gunman shot 19 people in Arizona. One of these people was Arizona state congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The injuries she sustained from the shooting caused her to be hospitalized for brain trauma, and separated her from her role in congress. Since the shooting, there has been considerable coverage by the media of the Giffords situation. Much focus has been placed on Giffords' recovery and possible return to congress. Although such coverage provides information on Giffords progress and status, the true value of the media's light on Giffords' situation, is that it causes society to face their own prejudices. Every person who views the Giffords situation will naturally form an opinion about Giffords new potential. It is this very "naturalness" of opinion forming that, again, lies at the heart of ableism. Ableism is our everyday assumptions as to what should "naturally" be, what is "normal", and therefore when something deviates from this "normal", we find it to be a debilitating factor to our lives. Generally, disability is looked at only in regards to physically apparent handicaps. While disability does describe physical handicap, it also describes the mirage of identities that work to define the personal "self" such as race, gender, and class. These identities can also work to disable a person in life. As seen by Peggy McIntosh's essay on White Privilege, there is an obvious disability to being a historically discriminated against race, with implications extending into the prescription of a person's social class. McIntosh reminds us that no discrimination exists in a vacuum. Race informs social class, and social class can modify gender. If any, or all, of these factors can modify a person's ability to achieve "normality" than these factors can be a disability. Therefore, ableism is the pinnacle of social discrimination. It encompasses all forms of discrimination and is the process responsible for the labeling of a person's status in society. The great paradox of ableism is that it is self-perpetuating. As long as society continues to deem certain factors "debilitating" these certain factors will actually become debilitating. If society is to find any form of relief from this plight, it will first need to find a way to annex the very foundation of ableism; the structure and ideology of "normal".
Getting "Better": http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/gabrielle-giffords-interview_n_1094044.html