From Le Hub/The Climate Justice Organizing HUB
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ableism is a form of discrimination against disabled and chronically ill people. It is "a system that places value on people's bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normalcy, intelligence, excellence and productivity." It determines who is valuable and worthy based on their appearance and/or ability to fulfill what society expects of them. - Talia A. Lewis [1]

Ableism is deeply rooted in capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy's push for productivity, extraction and commodifying our bodies as instruments meant for labour and building wealth.

Examples of Ableism

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Government and individual responses to the covid-19 pandemic, especially in Western Nations that value capitalism, colonialism and white supremacy, showed how ableism can manifest and be a serious threat to disabled and chronically ill people. For example...

Disposability discourse

Much discussion around the severity of COVID was lessened by expressing how it mainly sickens and kills elderly, chronically ill, and disabled people. This discourse suggests these groups are seen disposable. 

Loosened restrictions too early

When governments loosened COVID restrictions in response to business demands, political pressure, and public impatience, rather than scientific evidence, high risk populations (the chronically ill, disabled and elderly) were subsequently told they are disposable yet again. 

Working through illness

Regulations around how many sick days should be required when someone falls ill with COVID also demonstrated ableism. In relation to these regulations, and in favour of profit above health, many politicians including US President Joe Biden, praised themselves for working through COVID, instead of encouraging people to rest and recover if they'd fallen ill. 


Individuals have been encouraged to make 'personal' choices on vaccines (without legitimate health restrictions), masks and gatherings.

"There is no individual safety without collective safety and collective safety requires that no one is safe unless everyone is safe." - Mia Mingus [2]

"You enjoy connection at the expense of our isolation. Your wants are always more important than our needs. When you choose to gamble with your own health, you only take into consideration your own risks and never the risks of others. Abled entitlement ensures your risk assessment will always be, “if I get sick, I will be able to recover OK. My family will be OK. My children will be OK.” Never, “Will they be OK? Will their children be OK? Will their family be OK? Will everyone they might also interact with be OK?” Never, “Could this harm their neighborhood? Their state? Their country? Their continent?” Shielded by your abled privileged bravado of “it won’t happen to me.” Never, “Who might I be exposing? I might be OK, but someone else may not.”- Mia Mingus [3]

Eco-Ableism [4]

Eco-ableism refers to the ways ableism is reproduced within climate activism. This is especially present in the push for individual solutions (i.e. single-use plastic bans and veganism). For some people, adopting these environmental changes would actually put their lives at risk. For example...

Disposable straws

Metal alternatives can cause serious to disabled people (consider the possibility of impairment, or the challenge to sanitize). Alternatives may cause allergies, be unpositionable, or dissolve in hot liquids.


Some people cannot prepare food or cook for themselves. Some people rely on internet shopping, and while many companies aren’t doing their part to reduce package waste, this isn’t the fault of disabled people that rely on this for their needs. Other people rely on wet wipes to clean themselves because of a limited ability to shower. 

Veganism for all

For many disabled people, they rely on a restricted diet due to food intolerances or challenges with swallowing, for example. This means following a vegan diet is not possible.

Fighting eco-ableism requires including the needs of disabled people in these conversations, and recognizing that meeting their needs to survive is not the cause of climate destruction.

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to

Creative commons.png
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Back to Homepage