Talking Point

If buildings made it impossible for women to enter that would be sexist

Cheryl Campsie, Associate Director, discusses PPC’s work with The Shaw Trust and the disabled leaders who are driving ableism up the agenda. She encourages us all to think about the language we use, not to make assumptions about disabled people and urges organisations to employ disabled talent.

This simple analogy coined by Shani Dhanda, helps to explain ‘ableism’ because clearly this situation would be sexist and not okay. Unfortunately, this situation remains a reality for many disabled people, who are denied access to different aspects of society because of physical, cultural or attitudinal barriers. And this is ableism it’s entrenched in all areas of society.

This year’s Models of Diversity at London Fashion Week is challenging ableism and I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learnt about ableism and what it means. It’s a form of discrimination like racism, sexism, and ageism.

Through our work with charity Shaw Trust for the Disability Power 100, we’ve had the privilege to work with disabled leaders who are driving ableism up the agenda.

Pioneers like leading fashion designer, Victoria Jenkins, founder of Unhidden, a leading UK adaptive fashion label who has a show at Models of Diversity. Victoria says:

‘More than 24% of the UK population identifies as disabled and yet people with accessible clothing needs are often denied access to clothes that are desirable and attractive. I’m determined to challenge this with adaptive fashion that is stylish and dignified and is bringing adaptive clothing into the mainstream.’

Shani Dhanda one of the UK’s most influential disabled people, says this about ableism:

‘It’s not our conditions and impairments that disable us. It’s society and the way in which it’s designed. It could be physical barriers, cultural barriers, attitudinal barriers, or it could be people’s bias. I’m not disabled 24/7, I only experience disability when I am faced with a barrier or a bias.’

Amy Francis Smith is a multi-award winning disabled architect who explains how ableism ‘architecturally disables’ people.

‘Much of the infrastructure in the UK is difficult to access, difficult then to get into and even more difficult to get around. Disabled people often feel unwelcome in spaces that are not designed for their mobility, sensory, mental health or neurodiversity needs.’

However, as Amy says, ‘if you can design it in, you can design it out’. But this takes commitment and intention.

Once you understand it you can become an ally. Think about the language you use. Don’t make assumptions and judgments about disabled people. Employ disabled talent. Speak up when you see ableism.

Because as Shani says, ‘every decision that we make can either raise or lower barriers to participation in society.’

Find out more at Disability Power 100

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