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Chapter 1

Introduction (selections from Chapter 1)

While research on ageism, heterosexism, and anti-fat attitudes has been steadily increasing, the study of ableism or disability prejudice is still in its infancy (Corrigan 2014). First referenced over 35 years ago in the women’s news journal Off Our Backs (House 1981), ableism is an uncomfortable subject, a difficult dialogue, and not just because people feel bad for those who happen to be blind, deaf, or living with chronic physical, intellectual, or mental health conditions. Disappointment, disregard, discomfort, and distain are provoked, in part, because disability is a group that anyone can join – at any time. This can be scary, especially for those less familiar with diverse disabled people.

However, this book was designed to provoke difficult dialogues about disability – a social status that incites both hostile and benevolent forms of prejudice – a group that provokes stereotypes of incompetence and dependency, and behaviors that range from staring and unwanted assistance to abandonment, dehumanization, and hate crimes. As illustrated in the opening poem by educator, author, and activist Maria Palacios, sometimes these prejudices are motivated by fear and contempt – at other times pity, inspiration, and compassion are involved as well. Extending the multitude of volumes on racism, sexism, and intergroup prejudice more generally, this book is among the first to integrate the social scientific literature on the origins and manifestations of prejudice against disabled people as a social group writ large – a group that confronts pervasive discrimination for the right to live independently, to work, and to parent. … see more

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