How to support someone experiencing ableism

It’s been a while! There’s been a lot happening since I last blogged and I realised we’re yet to complete the current series on ableism. So here we are. If you’d like to catch up here’s the first one about what ableism actually is

From there you’ll see ableism sometimes is obvious, but it also can be very subtle yet powerful and can impact someone for a a minute, a month or even a lifetime. So if you know someone who’s experienced ableism recently here’s some thoughts for you:

  1. Treat it seriously

Ableism is a tricky beast. Step into the conversation with the knowledge that someone has trusted you with this conversation. Everyone reacts differently to ableism. Some won’t notice/acknowledge it. Some will actively avoid the subject. And for some it can hugely impact them. Starting the conversation about this in the first place can be scary, complex and sometimes humiliating for some looking back at certain incidents. When having this conversation, be sure to thank the person for trusting you with this information. 

  1. Don't invalidate their feelings 

It’s really easy to want to comfort someone by saying “no I don’t think they meant it like that” “oh something (not so) similar happened to me once, it happens” or “try not to think about it”. But the thing is, sometimes it’s all we can think or feel. It can be overwhelming and by someone telling us it’s not ableism or that it’s just something that happens, you could be making the disabled person feel dismissed and alone with their feelings

Try saying: “that must have been really frustrating, I’m sorry that happened. I’m here to listen”.

  1. You don’t always need solutions 

I often get told “you should report this!” Or “next time you should say this”. But this can all depend on who you are and the situation you’re in. Often (especially disabled women) are vulnerable in many situations, reporting incidents can be emotionally and mentally exhausting with a low chance of actual solutions. Especially if these are regular occurrences. 

Try saying: “if you would like me to assist with reporting this for/with you, let me know - but I understand if you don’t want to”

  1. There’s no timescale for healing from ableism

This is the bit I find the hardest. I feel like ableism can be similar to grief. Sometimes the thought of a memory can slap you in the face when you least expect it. Sometimes just thinking about an incident that happened years ago can trigger me into feeling emotional and takes me back to that time. So tread carefully if you ask questions about these situations. 

Try saying: “is this something you feel able to talk about? Let me know if you’d rather not”

So there we go, these are just some tips for supporting someone who’s experienced ableism. Of course, these are just my own thoughts. I’m someone who soaks in everything, I’m an emotional gal who observes and analyses the world. So ableism is a topic I think about a lot. 

Can you relate?